RedBlacks make debut in clash with Blue Bombers
Winnipeg, MB (Sports Network) - The CFL is set to break new ground again on Thursday night, as the Ottawa RedBlacks make their official debut as the newest club in the century-old league when they challenge the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field.
While there 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, but lasted only a few years before folding in 2005.
Rick Campbell, a two-time Grey Cup winner during his time with the Edmonton Eskimos (2003, 2005), has been appointed the head coach of the RedBlacks, his first shot at being the lead man on the sidelines.
It is expected that Henry Burris will be the man under center for the squad once they officially take the field on July 3. 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 CFL history with more than 5,000 yards and 55 TDs to his credit.
The most notable among the Ottawa 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 rather 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 only 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.
For a team that was bringing in a new starter at quarterback after posting a league-worst three victories in 2013, the Blue Bombers figured to have their hands full when they opened the new campaign against Toronto last week, but that wasn't the case at all.
However, before the Argonauts could realize what hit them, Winnipeg was up by a score of 24-0 in the second quarter, en route to a lopsided 45-21 final. The offensive onslaught represented the highest-scoring effort by the Bombers since a 2010 meeting with British Columbia in Week 15 when the squad captured a 47-35 win in overtime.
Quarterback Drew Willy, now in his third season with the Bombers, threw for a career-high 308 yards as he converted 19-of-27 pass attempts, leading to four majors for the hosts. For his efforts, Willy was named the league's offensive player of the week.
Aaron Kelly did a heap of damage in the first few minutes of the meeting, posting a pair of receiving touchdowns, en route to five receptions for 100 yards.
Giving the Bombers some much-needed punch on the ground was Arizona product Nic Grigsby, who erupted for 122 yards on 21 carries in his CFL debut.
A year ago, Winnipeg was last in the CFL in scoring with a mere 20.1 ppg, generating a league-low 281.4 ypg which made the Bombers the only club to come in under 320 ypg. The team tossed a total of only 13 touchdowns, less than half that of the closest opponent (Montreal, 27). Perhaps last year's efforts had something to do with the Bombers being ranked only seventh in the Week 1 Power Rankings.
In recent news off the field for the Blue Bombers, the team suspended defensive back Korey Banks after the 11-year veteran asked for his release. The club did not satisfy the request and instead put Banks on the suspended list, indefinitely.
A two-time Grey Cup winner Banks, who spent the last eight seasons with British Columbia, has 442 tackles and 37 interceptions in 163 career games.
07/02 11:18:16 ET