Sunday, June 23, 2024

New Redblacks QB, top receivers, to get plenty of playing time Friday

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In case you have lost count, the Redblacks have gone through 10 starting quarterbacks over the four painful seasons since Trevor Harris led them to the 2018 Grey Cup game.

It’s understandable if there are a number of disbelievers in the crowd when Dru Brown begins his quest to stop the bleeding when making his TD Place debut in the team’s pre-season finale against the Montreal Alouettes Friday night.

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“I think there’s expectations all the time … you play this position your whole life, there’s always expectations,” Brown said after Thursday’s walk-through when asked if he’ll be a little nervous knowing the anxious Ottawa fans will have his every snap under the microscope. “To be honest, I don’t have much of that in my head, personally. Really, I want to go out there and compete and show them here that I’m a competitor, and that I can execute at a high level. From that stems their belief in me.”

After starting three games over the last three seasons as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers backup, the 27-year old Californian didn’t really have enough time to be good or bad during last weekend’s pre-season opener in Hamilton.

He played less than a full quarter, completing four of six passes for 26 yards.

In the (at least) two quarters of work he’ll get this week against the defending Cup champs, Brown will be equipped for success.

Also making their pre-season debut will be his Fab Four of American receivers — former 1,000-yard guys Dominique Rhymes, Jaelon Acklin, Justin Hardy and Bralon Addison — as well as Nick Mardner, the impressive second overall pick of this year’s CFL draft.

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If Brown proves to be worth his salary, the biggest worry could ultimately be that there’s not enough footballs to go around.

“The guys that have been here, their work shows for itself,” he said. “We have a ton of talent there. And there’s been a lot of young guys that have showed up and have been really talented and continue to learn, because to a lot of them it’s a new game. They’ve been extremely coachable and open to learning from older guys that have been around a bit.

“It’s definitely a good problem to have.”

Brown is appreciative of how he has been “welcomed with open arms” by his teammates, and has enjoyed “building the relationships” with them.

And by all accounts, they love the guy.

But really, paying customers of a team that has gone 14-54 since 2019 don’t give a damn if the players get along.

They want results.

“I think an offence is good when all 12 guys do their job,” Brown said when asked about the potential of the Ottawa attack. “People like to break things down and there’s all these analytics, but the reality is if you just do your job, everybody, you’re going to be pretty dang good on offence. We’re still working on that. We’ll never be perfect, but I think that if we continue to be process-driven, not only during the week, but in the game, one play at a time and, and truly, calculating what they need to do or what I need to do or anybody on the offensive side of the ball, to execute their assigning, you’re going to have a pretty good offence.”

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At least one veteran on the Redblacks defence is pumped to find out what Brown and company can do in new offensive coordinator Tommy Condell’s system against a team such as the Alouettes — who had the best ‘D’ in the East and second-best in the CFL last year — even if Montreal is expected to be leaving all but three of its starters on that side of the ball at home.

“We’ve been battling all camp, so I’m excited to see them do it against someone other than us,” said Redblacks middle linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox. “We’ve got weapons all over the field. Dru’s been slingin’ it, we’ve got a great offensive line, and I was with Tommy in Hamilton .. he’s a great offensive mind. As a defender, you hate going against his scheme because your eyes are everywhere. He’s a magician.

“I’m excited to seem them do their thing.”

Santos-Knox says it’s important to show this edition of the Redblacks is “a new team” right out of the gate.

“We’re not the 2023 Redblacks and this is going to be the start of something special,” he said. “I think it all starts in this pre-season game. We owe it to our fans. The fans deserve a winning team. That’s what we want to bring them this year.”

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Brown’s goal for the night is simpler.

“Just a high level of execution,” he said of what he wants for the offence against the Alouettes. “I think in practice we’ve gotten better and better each day, but (Friday) there’s going to be different things that we haven’t seen, and that’s okay. It’s going to be great to see how we react to those things, how we communicate in order to maybe make adjustments and execute moving forward.”

GOING DEEP

With the Redblacks cutting down to their final roster on Saturday, head coach Bob Dyce was cagey when asked how many jobs are still up for grabs. “I guess I don’t necessarily think about it like this really,” he said. “I’m evaluating the whole thing. I really want to see make sure that everybody who’s performing out there is playing at the level that we expect. Obviously, we have a pretty good idea where our roster is going to sit going going into Week 1, so we’ll just look and see if anybody raises their game and makes decisions even tougher than they are now.” … Former Redblacks QB Caleb Evans will start behind centre for Montreal on Friday … Needing some Canadian depth on the D-line, the Redblacks likely have interest in Daniel Joseph, the fourth overall pick in the 2021 CFL draft, who was released this week by the B.C. Lions. The 27-year old Toronto native spent last season with the Seattle Sea Dragons of the XFL after being a training camp cut of the Buffalo Bills the previous year.

dbrennan@postmedia.com

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