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2014 CFL Eastern Preview - Ottawa RedBlacks

From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

Ottawa, ON (SportsNetwork.com) - Welcome to the family, Ottawa, yet again. This year marks the inaugural campaign of the Ottawa RedBlacks, the latest addition to the CFL's East Division.

While this is a new name and new ownership group in the city, this is actually the third team to call Ottawa home for CFL action.

Early on there were the Ottawa Rough Riders more than a century ago and more recently, the Renegades tried to make a go of it as well, but lasted only a few years before folding in 2005.

General manager Marcel Desjardins, who served as an Assistant GM for the Montreal Alouettes from 2008-2012, has been a part of three Grey Cup Champions in the last dozen years, so he certainly has the pedigree to make it work this time around in Ottawa. Desjardins pulled over Rick Campbell from the Calgary Stampeders to be his very first head coach for this new endeavor, a two-time Grey Cup winner himself during his time with the Edmonton Eskimos (2003 and 2005), Campbell is ready for the challenge.

A defensive-minded coach, Campbell will be leaning on coordinator Mike Gibson to get the offense on track. Gibson is making the jump from offensive line coach with Calgary, but prior to that he was the offensive coordinator for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, so this is not entirely new territory for him.

While CFL rosters are in constant flux throughout the season, all teams were required to make their final cuts to begin the regular season by Saturday night, and the RedBlacks were no exception.

It is expected that Henry Burris will be the man under center for the squad once they officially take the field. The import from Temple University finished his second season with the Tiger-Cats last year, and in doing so not only paced the entire league in passing yards with 4,925 yards, he also led his squad to the title game against Saskatchewan, where they bowed in a 45-23 defeat.

Burris may be long in the tooth by football standards, this being his 15th campaign, but there is no denying his desire, drive and fearless approach to the game, as he is more than willing to take a chance to make something out of nothing. While he hasn't scored a rushing touchdown since 2011, Burris is one of the most successful ball-carrying quarterbacks in history with more than 5,000 yards and 55 TDs to his credit.

Joining Burris at the signal-caller position are Thomas DeMarco out of Old Dominion, and Catawba's Danny O'Brien.

With regard to the receiving corps, there really aren't any names that jump off the page. Perhaps the most notable among the wideouts is Paris Jackson, who several years ago was a legitimate threat who registered back-to-back seasons with at least 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns. Unfortunately, his last three years with British Columbia have been quite forgettable, ringing up a mere 27 catches for less than 400 yards and a single major.

The squad will need to lean quite a bit on a player like Marcus Henry, a slot back who is entering his fourth year in the league. In three seasons with Edmonton, Henry averaged almost 14 yards per catch on 95 grabs, but still came away with just three TDs through the air. The RedBlacks will need a spark somewhere down the field, and Henry could be one of the players holding the match.

Although running the ball is rarely the first option, the RedBlacks appear to be coming up short in that department as well. Chevon Walker showed some nifty footwork in his first season back in 2012 with Hamilton, putting up 656 yards and four TDs, but he delivered a mere fraction of that last season. At this point he might be the best option for Ottawa, although it would be nice to see former Boise State running back DJ Harper get back on his feet after a pair of ACL injuries in college.

Over on the defensive side of the ball, the RedBlacks are again getting the hand-me-downs from the rest of the league during the start-up season. One of the more notable additions to the roster is James Green at linebacker. Green was a special teams performer for Winnipeg the last several years and was one of the more productive tacklers in the league in that capacity, but now he'll be pushed to make big plays more frequently.

The RedBlacks will not be in action for the first week of the season, waiting until July 3 to kick off the action at Winnipeg. It won't be until July 18 that the squad finally plays in front of the hometown crowd, hosting Toronto.

Expect to see some serious growing pains this season for the RedBlacks, stretching into another year or two to be quite honest. While almost anything can happen in this league from one week to the next, one play to the next, Ottawa will be lucky to be near .500 when November rolls around.

FACTS & FIGURES: Division - East. 2013 record - N/A. Playoff result: N/A. Stadium - TD Place Stadium. Capacity - 24,000. Colors - Red and black.

06/23 11:29:27 ET


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