Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Hogan-Saindon believes Redblacks offence will be a force in 2024

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The Redblacks centre believes in new quarterback Dru Brown, who he calls a “fighter” and a “good leader”

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It was about 20 minutes after the Redblacks’ last training camp practice of 2024 when one of the team’s most important players declared the time is nigh to turn the page.

Evidence, he stated, will be revealed as soon as Friday’s pre-season tune-up, with the defending Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes providing the opposition at TD Place.

“We’re a brand new team,” said Cyrille Hogan-Saindon. “We’re not like last year, and I feel like the fans are going to see that as well as everybody in this building.”

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Of course, when you’ve been the CFL East Division’s doormats for four seasons running, there’s nowhere to go but up — but there was also no need to point that out to the 6-foot-5, 315-pound centre, especially when he had such conviction in his voice.

At the root of his belief in a spin-around is new quarterback Dru Brown who, like Hogan-Saindon and the handful of other starters that made the trip to Hamilton for last week’s first pre-season game, worked less than one full quarter.

More than two weeks of practices, meetings and just getting-to-know-each other time was enough for him to get a good read on the former Winnipeg Blue Bombers backup.

“He’s a true competitor,” said Hogan-Saindon. “He’s very good. He likes football. He’s very cool for the group, too. There’s confidence in him. He has confidence in us to make the right play, and protect him the most we can.

“He’s a fighter. Good leader. I like him. I like him a lot.”

At the same time, Hogan-Saindon believes it’s wrong to blame last year’s offensive struggles on rookie quarterback Dustin Crum.

That the Redblacks offence was last in passing yardage per game, while allowing a league-leading number of sacks, was more of “an offensive thing,” he said, while adding the first-year starting centre was sometimes at fault.

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Last year, Hogan-Saindon was the rookie starter.

“Honestly, it wasn’t one guy, the O-line, the running backs or the QB,” he said. “There was, at times, miscommunication on my part. I was the centre making calls (for the line), and I was doing some mistakes sometimes. So it was really a unit thing. We needed to work better together, and I feel like this year we’re definitely doing that. Communicating more and more to make sure those mistakes don’t happen again.”

Head coach Bob Dyce is a big fan of the player the Redblacks selected 11th overall in 2022 out of the powerful Laval Rouge et Or program. He’s also a big believer in the continued development of Hogan-Saindon under new offensive coordinator Tommy Condell.

“Cyrille’s adjustment has been fantastic,” Dyce said when asked about the progression of CHS. “As the centre, in this offence especially, really he’s calling everything, he’s calling every single front, and so it’s really important that he’s on point. Cyrille has never been a guy to disappoint me. From the time he’s been a rookie, he’s just continued to get better and better. He’s done a fantastic job, he’s really stepped up into a leadership role. He’s in his third year now, and it’s been like a progression.”

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It’s Hogan-Saindon’s dedication that strikes Dyce most.

“Cyrille does all the things that you would want out of a professional football player,” said the coach. “He’s in early in the morning. He’s always in with the offensive line coach, he goes through the protections before anybody else does, because he’s got to make the calls, he’s got to be right in everything that he does. He’s in the meeting room, and at times he’s leading the meeting. After we’re done here he is one of the guys who’s here the latest, always in the gym, doing things right, watching extra film. It’s just a pleasure to work with him. To see his progress has been very enjoyable.”

Hogan-Saindon says he has been spending time developing his “football IQ” by learning what the other players on the field are doing in all situations.

“As a centre it’s important to understand how the defence plays, to see the defensive rotations, where the safety and linebackers are placed on the field,” he said. “That allows me to make the proper calls on run plays or pass-protection calls.”

As for Condell’s offence, it isn’t drastically different than the plan of attack the Redblacks had last year under Khari Jones.

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“I would say like offensive football is basically the same from OC to OC,” said Hogan-Saindon. “There’s difference in the verbiage use, the name and the way he calls plays, but inside zone is inside zone from one OC to another OC. We’ve been learning some new words, new ways to call a play, but it’s not like way different.

“It’s been good. Some different details on pass protection that we’re learning about more, and it’s good. Honestly, it’s going to help us be better as a group.”

Feeling more confident with all the surroundings in his third year with the Redblacks, Hogan-Saindon is embracing the role of a leader, just as he is confident that the Redblacks’ attack can become a force in the CFL.

“The vibe on the offensive room is very good,” he said. “It will be very exciting to see what can happen with all those weapons.”

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GOING DEEP

The Redblacks will make their cuts on Saturday, which gives those on the bubble one last shot at showing they belong on the team against the Als. The players on the roster will have a nice long weekend as Ottawa has a bye next week, the first of the CFL schedule. “We get paid to make decisions on guys, and we’re going to keep as many as we can around early and go forward from there,” said Dyce. “There’s a competitiveness and that’s great. It means you’ve got more than one guy who’s able to compete and play at that position. Now you’re trying to filter out and we’ll have a good understanding after the weekend, then we have the extra bye week in front of it and we can think things out even further.” Asked if he was satisfied with how camp has gone, Dyce replied: “I think if you sit there and you’re satisfied, you’re probably not moving in the right direction. We all want to strive to be better. The players want to strive to be better, we want to be better as coaches. So I don’t say that we’re satisfied because we all have areas. I got areas I’ve got to improve on and they got areas they’ve got to improve on.”

dbrennan@postmedia.com

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