Tuesday, June 23, 2015
REDBLACKS AFTER RESPECT
The Redblacks were able to get away with a 2-16 record last season due to the novelty of their return to the CFL, but there was little doubt that significant off-season improvement was needed.
After finishing as the lowest scoring team in the league at 15.4 points per game, Redblacks general manager Marcel Desjardins went out and signed some of the most sought after free agents.
The addition of receivers Maurice Price, Ernest Jackson, Greg Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli and Chris Williams give the Redblacks instant credibility and should help spark a struggling offence.
It remains to be seen if 40-year-old Henry Burris will be the man to get the ball to the new receivers, or if Thomas DeMarco will be given the opportunity to prove he can be a starter in this league.
"Right now my focus is on the people that matter and that's the people on the field,'' Burris said. "The critics can say whatever they want to say because the critics have always been there with me. I don't listen to what they say.''
Last season was a challenge for Burris, who finished the season with a 60.9 completion percentage, his lowest since 2009. Still, he believes last season's struggles will benefit this year's group.
"For a lot of the young guys they learned from baptism under fire and I learned a new lesson because in my 19-year career that was only the third time I didn't go to the playoffs,'' Burris said. "It was difficult, but we all learned and we stuck together as a family.''
That family will look a lot different when the Redblacks open the season June 25th against the Montreal Alouettes. More than half of players who were on the pre-game roster for last year's season opener are gone or injured.
Regardless of who will be throwing the ball, the Redblacks need to ensure their quarterbacks have enough time and vision to make a play.
The addition of veteran SirVincent Rogers will be a nice boost to the offensive line. Rogers brings a commanding presence and has already taken on a leadership role. The hiring of Bryan Chiu as the new offensive line coach should also help.
"I think we added a bunch of talent to the mix of talent that was here already,'' Rogers said. "We need to go out and really battle and not lay down for anybody. If somebody beats us we need to make them work for it, but we need to go out with the mentality to win and not to keep from losing.''
Knowing how to win was probably one of the Redblacks biggest struggles last season.
"You need to win in this business,'' said head coach Rick Campbell. "We all fully understand that. The key too is that you need to win when the game is there for the taking and that's what we lacked last year.''
Like his players, Campbell believes last year's experience will benefit the Redblacks in the long run.
"We have more answers to things,'' Campbell said. "Last year was an exciting year, but we were trying to figure things out week to week. This year we have a lot more solutions and we figured a lot more things out. We still have a long ways to go and we know that, but from that standpoint it's been better this year.''
The Redblacks defence was the lone bright spot last season and has gone through minimal change during the off-season.
Sophomore defensive back Antoine Pruneau, who had a stellar rookie season, said he already sees improvement as players have a sense of familiarity and confidence in one another.
"It shows that we played a whole season together,'' Pruneau said. "We want to pick up from last season and be even better. We know we don't have the luxury of being a first year team anymore; we need to get results.
"We know we need to perform and win games otherwise we're going to see some changes.''
Notes: Receiver Brad Sinopoli is on the disabled list, but could be ready to play Thursday in the season opener against Montreal.