Friday, June 14, 2024

Bralon Addison is an aid to Redblacks offence off and on the field

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In 2019, Tommy Condell’s debut season as offensive coordinator for the Hamilton Ticats, the team scored a league-high 551 points and finished first in the CFL at 15-3 before losing to the Calgary Stampeders in the Grey Cup.

Their quarterback mostly was Dane Evans who, while witnessing just his second football season in Canada, was forced into a starter’s role by an injury to Jeremiah Masoli.

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Evans finished sixth in league passing yards while throwing 21 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions.

In other words, he was very ordinary.

As Dru Brown prepares for his shot at being a No. 1 quarterback in the CFL,  the Redblacks aren’t asking the former Winnipeg Blue Bombers apprentice to be a saviour.

Nor do they need him to be.

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“We’re asking Dru to play to his highest level,” head coach Bob Dyce said after the last full practice of Week 2 at training camp. “If you look at the people we’ve added around him and the leadership of that group, with Tommy running the offence, we just need Dru to be Dru. We fully believe he’ll be successful in that.

“We feel with Dru, bringing the intangibles he does … he’s so process driven, things don’t seem to faze him. It’s still early, but he comes out and he has a plan, in everything he does. I’m not just talking on the field. His preparation. How he handles himself in the building. He’s a true pro.

“We feel with the strong support base he has around him, that will allow us to have success.”

Perhaps the most important piece of that support base participated in team drills for the first time on Thursday.

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Bralon Addison is a good, tough receiver who in 2019 was the CFL’s fifth-best pass catcher with 1,236 yards on 95 catches. The league leader was his teammate, Brandon ‘Speedy’ Banks.

There were times they made Dane Evans look like Chuck Ealey.

“This is probably the deepest group of receivers I’ve ever been around at a training camp — and that’s including the NFL,” said the 30-year old Addison, who missed the first 11 days of field work while being cautious with a hamstring issue.

Addison has been with six teams as pro — the Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings in the NFL, and also the Argos in the CFL — and qualifies the above statement by adding that of course the elite players are on another level, but here even the guys pushing for jobs are making plays.

“We signed a lot of guys that are playmakers,” he said. “I think if you know the history of Tommy’s offence, when you give him the playmakers he has (here) I think the offence can be really explosive.”

Four years of experience with the Condell system and his eagerness to share his knowledge with teammates less familiar with it adds to Addison’s value.

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“One of the things I’ve learned in this camp is his football IQ is out of this world,” Dyce said. “He has such a great understanding … from protections to coverage … just a great understanding of the game as a whole.”

Dyce shared a story about a meeting in which Addison asked the coach to stop the film so they could all go over a running back’s role on a particular play call.

“Bralon really sees the game as a quarterback,” Dyce said. “As a receiver, talking about what the backs should do, it was just phenomenal to see. That’s the kind of stuff he can impart on his teammates. When he’s on the field, he’s a dynamic player. He’s one of the guys who is tough and shows with his play. He’ll make the tough catch across the middle. He’s just a true professional.”

Chip Kelly had similar things to say when Addison played for him at Oregon.

“I consider myself a pretty smart football player, having been a quarterback in high school … and I know that was a long time ago,” Addison said. “But I think that’s kind of where I started. When I played quarterback, I had to know everybody’s job. In  high school, we had a pretty complex offence for a 16-, 17- and 18-year-old to play in. I just think that propelled me into my career.”

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Addison says most CFL offences are similar, but most co-ordinators like to add their own wrinkles. He enjoys helping teammates with questions about the Condell way.

“I’m just here to try to win a championship,” Addison said. “That’s what I’ve been chasing every year of my career. If that’s me stepping up and being able to help everybody understand the offence, which makes us better in the whole, then that’s what I’ve got to do.”

The Redblacks have another former Condell pupil in Jaelon Acklin, who has 2,061 receiving yards in his two seasons since leaving Hamilton.

“Having (Addison, Acklin and Masoli here) helps immeasurably, not only the translation of it, because now they’ll be able to translate something they’ve heard before, and also the expectations that come along with it,” Condell said. “We always say, we’ll set the expectations as coaches, but they’re going to set the standards.

“They’re all there and they’re able to communicate it to the other players. That’s what culture is. The day to day conversations that they’re having and the expectations that they’re getting from me because they’ve been around me for all those years, to say ‘hey, this is what he’s talking about, this is what we need.’ It’s been awesome, on and off the field.”

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While Addison compares Dominque Rhymes to Banks, Acklin acknowledges the former B.C. Lion as a leader and says he adds to Ottawa’s depth at the position.

“I hope we have four 1,000-yard (receivers),” Acklin said. “If I’m the fifth guy who doesn’t have 1,000 and we’re going to the playoffs, I really couldn’t care less. I hope that we all have 1,000 yards, but at the end of the day I just want us all to be winning, making the playoffs and going to a Grey Cup.”

GOING DEEP

Taking some reps as a running back on Thursday was explosive return specialist DeVonte Dedmon, who is going to have a tough time cracking the receiving core. “The great thing about DeVonte is he’s so diverse and dynamic, you want to find other ways to get the ball in his hands” Dyce said. “He has a history of working in the backfield, so why wouldn’t we look at? We’ve seen what he can do when he gets into space, and he’s not afraid of contact. Look at some of his returns, he’s breaking tackles and doing those things. We want to make sure we utilize our whole roster in every single way.”

dbrennan@postmedia.com

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