Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Dominique Rhymes returns home to help boost the Redblacks offence

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Dominique Rhymes provided a hint of how good he was going to be in 2019, his last of three seasons as a receiver with the Ottawa Redblacks.

He somehow managed to catch 65 passes for 1,056 yards when the team’s three quarterbacks — Dominique Davis, Jonathon Jennings and Will Arndt — had 11 touchdown tosses and 27 interceptions between them.

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In 2022, his second of three seasons with the B.C. Lions, Rhymes was the second-best receiver in the entire CFL with Canadian Nathan Rourke as his QB. He had 85 catches for 1,401 yards and 11 TDs, finishing behind only Winnipeg Blue Bombers star Dalton Schoen in the latter two categories.

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The 30-year old Rhymes is now back with the Redblacks as the centre piece of the team’s deepest position and don’t be surprised if this season he puts up his best numbers yet.

“Why not?” Rhymes said at training camp Wednesday when asked why he re-signed with a team that won three games in his previous season here and just 11 in the three seasons since. “Ottawa is a great city. This city is my home, where I started my career. I know the players here, I know Coach (Bob) Dyce. He was one of the coaches here in my rookie year, he believed in me, he had me on special teams, helped me make the team. He’s just been a big fan of mine.

“Life is full circle. You come back to those people that always show you love. I feel it’s a blessing to be here, to play for Coach Dyce, just give him my all each and every game. And you know, just try to help the Redblacks be great again. Ottawa is known for being a champion, having championship runs so you want to get back to that.

“It feels right to be back home. Being back in the capital, being able to go out and practice on this field again. Feels like those young days, when you’re trying to make the team. I have the same mentality. I’m just hungry and trying to make every play that comes my way.”

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Quarterback Dru Brown should have an attractive array of options when he drops back to throw passes for the Redblacks in 2024, with veterans like Rhymes, Jaelon Acklin, Bralon Addison, Justin Hardy, DeVonte Dedmon plus Canadians Nick Mardner, Keaton Bruggeling and Daniel Oladejo battling for his attention.

“As a receiver group I expect nothing but the best,” said Travis Moore, the Redblacks receivers coach and pass game co-ordinator. “We want to be the best in blocking. We also want to know where we’re going. We’re going to know how to line up, know our concept and coverages, and when it’s time to make the plays, the  catches on contested catches, then catch them.

“Is there going to be some balls on the ground? Yeah, but not too many. If they’re going to be on the ground, then hopefully they knocked it down. We’re not going to be dropping balls or anything. Our job is to get open, catch the ball, make big plays, block.

“I always try to tell my guys to be more selfless than selfish. We got one ball, so you got to make sure and when one guy has the ball you’re telling me how much you love your teammates by what do you do when you don’t have the ball in your hands. When you don’t have the ball in your hands I need to see you go and get somebody. That’s how we try to do it. We want to make sure we play physical and fast.”

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Moore was coaching with the Redblacks when Rhymes arrived as a rookie in 2017 and it didn’t take long for him to realize his potential.

“Very eager, very smart and his work ethic was off the chart,” Moore said. “I stayed after practice with him and we just worked routes. I knew that with the work putting in. It doesn’t surprise me the things he had done in the CFL.

“He put in a lot of work. I remember him saying ‘I just want to play football.’ That was it. And he had to. He knew he was going to be supporting his brothers and sisters, and he was he was already ahead of his time. I always call him a young man with an old soul, because he was the protector and he was also the provider. He made sure that he got his younger siblings where they’re at today.”

Aside from his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame, what makes Rhymes the dangerous weapon he is today?

What makes him so good today?

“Good length, good speed, good route running,” Moore said. “He understand concepts, understand coverages and he puts the work in. He puts the work in day in and day out and he’s getting everybody else riled up. He’s catching the ball, he making sure he’s finishing, he just not catching the ball and slowing down. He’s getting up field. He’s getting the younger guys to follow suit.”

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He’s also happy. Ottawa is where he has always wanted to be. Where he met his fiancee, Mackenzie, and where he has lived in the off-season even while playing for former Redblacks coach Rick Campbell in Vancouver.

“I’m confident in my ability,” Rhymes said. “I know if I get the opportunity I’m going to make the most of it. I do feel when I’m at the top of my game, I am the best in the league. I try to prove that everyday.

“I’m just doing my part to help the quarterbacks with whatever they need. If they put it in the vicinity I need to catch it. You want to be the quarterbacks best friend. That’s my job.”

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After going down on the first day of camp, injured offensive lineman Dontae Bull shed his crutches and air cast, but was wearing a brace on his left knee as he watched Wednesday morning’s practice. Dyce was unable to provide an update on when the first-overall pick of the 2023 CFL draft would return to the field, but did say “things worked out for the positive this time.” … In the Redblacks’ latest series of transactions, two players were place on the ‘retired’ list — national linebacker Josh White and American running back T.J. Hammonds — while eight other have been released. They latter group includes former Carleton Ravens kicker Michael Domagala and seven Americans: Quarterback Matthew McKay, defensive lineman Michael Anderson, defensive back Elijah Blades, offensive lineman Des Holmes and receivers Dontay Demus, Sam James Jr. and Garett Maag.

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