Saturday, June 15, 2024

Good showing by Redblacks QB Dru Brown in pre-season win over Alouettes

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In his TD Place debut as the Redblacks starting quarterback, Dru Brown looked better than he does in the game stats package.

And his numbers weren’t all that bad in Ottawa’s pre-season finale, a 19-13 victory over the Monteal Alouettes at TD Place.

Working the first three quarters, Brown completed 20 of 33 passes for 247 yards. He had no touchdown passes but led Ottawa to five field goal attempts.

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He also threw one interception. It was a pick that should have been avoided. Brown slung a bullet that went right through the hands of first-round pick Nick Mardner, the 6-foot-6 tower that has looked good in two weeks of training camp.

At least four more of his passes were dropped — one by Dominique Rhymes, who moments earlier was drilled in the ribs but stayed in the game, one by running back Kylin Hill, who was guilty of looking for open field before watching the ball into his hands, and the first two he heaved in the second half, to rookie Ryan McDaniel and veteran Justin Hardy.

As many as three more of Brown’s balls were catchable, hitting the hands of receivers who could not pull them in.

Brown’s favourite receiver was Bralon Addison, who caught all six of his targets for 64 yards. Rookie Khalil Pimpleton grabbed four of seven targets for 65 yards. The Redblacks have to find a way to keep Pimpleton when they make their cuts on Saturday. It won’t be easy, as they have four quality veteran receivers that aren’t going anywhere, but throughout camp the speedy, 5-foot-8, 163 pounder has been too impressive to lose.

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Speaking of small guys, Brown sure looks shorter than the 5-foot-11 at which he is listed. He looks 5-foot-10, tops. Could that be a problem? Absolutely. Doug Flutie was 5-foot-10, but he was also the best scrambling quarterback the CFL has ever seen. Going back another generation, Ron Lancaster was 5-foot-10 — hence the nickname “The Little General” — and Tom Wilkinson was reportedly 5-foot-11. They were merely two of the most prolific QBs in league history.

Brown’s height appeared to be an issue when his first pass of the night was batted down by 6-foot-2 defensive end Jordan Domineck, who also tested the quarterback’s toughness on the second series, when he blew through the left side of the offensive line for a hard sack.

Brown not only survived, but mostly thrived from that point on.

“Dru Brown’s arm motion is very low,” a friend who played the position said in a text.  “Not good for a short QB.”

I don’t know about those technicalities.question his arm strength.

I also know tha how Brown goes, so go

What I do know is the Redblacks new quarterback has good zip to his passes. And when he completes a 33-yarder to Pimpleton throwing off his back foot, like he did in the first quarter, it’s tough to es the Redblacks, and when he left the game Ottawa was leading the defending Grey Cup champions 16-6.

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Were the Alouettes using many starters? No. But after what we’ve witnessed from the Redblacks the last four seasons, that’s unnecessary nitpicking.

Their defence was very good, stopping Montreal on a pair of third-and-one gambles, and Ottawa concluded its pre-season with 2-0 record.

The last thing the Redblacks need right now is a first week bye, but that’s what they’re getting. Their next game is Week 2 of the CFL schedule, June 13 at home to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Dru Brown’s old team.

HAPPY RETURNS

After getting called for third quarter pass interference penalty that put the Alouettes in scoring position, Tobias Harris more than redeemed himself on the same series with a 101-yard pick six … Devonte Dedmon picked up where he left off in Hamilton, taking the opening kickoff up the gut for a 48-yard gain. Even more impressive than the guy’s speed, I think, is his strength. Dedmon broke at least four tackles on the return … Trying to seal the job as the Redblacks starting running back, Ryquell Armstead was handed the ball on Ottawa’s first play from scrimmage. He suffered a one-yard loss and a leg or ankle injury.  … Of course, Dedmon’s speed is nothing to sneeze at either. With five minutes left in the opening quarter he brought a punt back (approximately) 108 yards to the house, but the touchdown was called back on a holding penalty against James Peter than appeared to have nothing to do with Dedmon’s burst … Redblacks Aidon John made a diving tackle to stop Tyjon Lindsey from scoring on a punt return. Ottawa needs to shore up its special teams coverage. Lindsey had 74 yards in punt returns before the first half was over.

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BETWEEN HALVES

Joining the Redblacks late last week was defensive tackle Gerald Willis III, a 6-foot-2, 300-pound 28 year old who transferred from the Florida Gators to the Miami Hurricanes after one year  – “I had a couple of problems, the younger me, and Miami gave me a chance to redeem myself,” he said – and had an entire training camp with the Baltimore Ravens as well as a tryout with the Miami Dolphins before settling in for 10 games with the XFL’s  Orlando Guardians in 2023. Willis is the younger brother of Landon Collins, a former all-pro safety whose eight year NFL career was split between the New York Giants and Washington. Before arriving in Ottawa, all he knew about Canada, he said, was “Toronto, and the Toronto Raptors.”  Willis, however, was not intimidated by coming to a new league. “Nah,” he said, “football is football.” Maybe so, but it wasn’t until after his first practice with the Redblacks that Willis found out there’s only three downs in the CFL. That’s not exactly a minor detail … In college, it would not have been uncommon for Willis to play in front of 80,000 fans. “Crazy environment,” he said of playing at Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Hurricanes. What did he think of TD Place?  “I was asking a guy out there, how’s the crowd capacity here?,” Willis said of an exchange he had with a teammate during practice. “He said, ‘when we rock it, we rock it.’ I can’t wait for that.” After his previous experiences, he’s going to be disappointed. Told the Redblacks home holds 25,000 and change, Willis replied: “Better than the XFL.” …

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OUTSIDE THE SIDELINES

Redblacks best running back on the night was former Ottawa Gee Gee Amlicar Polk. Not only did he out-gain the three Americans vying for the starter’s job – Amrstead, Hill and Ronnie Brown – but he ate up some valuable time with hard runs while Ottawa was clinging to a late game lead … Lewis Ward was good on 52 and 35 yard field goals in the first quarter, then was wide right on a 32 yard try and hit the uprights from 43 yards in the second. Ward connected on 26 and 17 yard attempts in the second half …. Mike Wakefield had Ottawa’s only sack, dropping James Morgan inside the Montreal 10 in the final minute of the first half … Another one of those “man, does time ever fly by” moments – P.A. announcer Mike Sutherland says in 2025 it will be 20 years since he played. The Renegades have been gone for that long?

dbrennan@postmedia.com

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