Monday, June 24, 2024

No big shocks as Ottawa Redblacks release 20 players on cut-down day

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“At the same time, it’s a bright day in that we formed our team, the 2024 version, and we’re excited about the prospects of that.”

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When Bob Dyce showed up for work early Saturday, he knew he was in for a long and difficult day.

It was time for final roster cutdown, and, while there were no big surprises, the Ottawa Redblacks head coach insisted he had some hard decisions to make.

“When you have a night game like that, you’re staying up and watching all three sides of the ball, doing your true evaluations,” Dyce said of Friday’s pre-season finale against the Montreal Alouettes at TD Place and the “sleepless” hours that followed. “You’ve got to make sure you give these guys the due diligence they deserve. You want to make sure you’re going to make the correct decisions, with what’s riding on it.

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“When you realize how much energy and how much these guys have invested in their future, and to tell someone them, at least here in Ottawa, a little bit of their journey is going to end, it’s a tough day.

“At the same time, it’s a bright day in that we formed our team, the 2024 version, and we’re excited about the prospects of that.”

As the former special-teams coach, Dyce was only half-joking when he said the toughest call was choosing between long-snappers Peter Adjey, who played all 36 games for the Edmonton Elks the past two seasons, and Guelph Gryphon Simon Chaves.

He went with the more experienced Adjey.

“Two outstanding young men and they both performed at a very high level,” Dyce said. “You only so many snaps in the course of a game, with something like a punt, and that was extremely tough.”

More of the same was before the Redblacks staff on the first day of June, and more yet awaits down the road.

“Across the board, there’s a whole lot (of difficult decisions),” Dyce said. “The defensive secondary … really, really lots of competition in that area. From young guys to veteran guys. As well, in the backfield again, both Rock (Ryquell Armstead) and Kylin (Hill) did a great job for us, both physical strong runners, and Ronnie Brown was in the mix as well.”

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The job was won by Armstead, and, with Brown released and Hill going to the practice roster, former Ottawa Gee Gee star Amlicar Polk will be the backup.

“We have a very talented crew (of receivers), obviously a tough group to crack into,” Dyce continued. “But some phenomenal young prospects. And making sure we’re making the right decision took a lot of time and evaluation.”

While second-overall pick Nick Mardner naturally made the team, Jahquan Bloomfield, an Ottawa product who the Redblacks selected in the fourth round of the 2024 Canadian Football League draft, and Daniel Perry, a fifth-round pick in 2023, failed to beat out Canadian incumbents Keaton Bruggeling and Daniel Oladejo.

Of the American pass catchers, Khalil Pimpleton cracked the squad, while released were Jon’Vea Johnson, Andre Miller and Ryan McDaniel.

Pimpleton will be worked into the mix with the Fab Four of Bralon Addison, Jaelon Acklin, Justin Hardy and Dominique Rhymes, as return specialist extraordinaire DeVonte Dedmon could also be used as a receiver and running back.

“Someone like Pimpleton, we obviously had an idea of who he was, but he did a phenomenal job,” Dyce said. “One of the things we always talk about is consistency, and Khalil did an outstanding job of that and getting better every single day. I think, as you watch practice, you’ll notice him making explosive plays here and there, but what impressed me is the areas that he improved on. He’s a complete receiver and he’s able to do more things.

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“I probably would say defensive line is one area that has always been a strength for us and, so, maybe there was a little less competition in that area with the veterans coming back,” Dyce added. “But you had in a new guy like (second-round pick) Daniel Okpoko, that gives a new new flavour and a new presence, so we’re excited about that.”

Of course, there’s still work to be done in whittling down to the game roster before the regular-season opener against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at home on June 13.

“When you when you see the final roster, you look at linebackers, and we’ve still got a lot of them around because it was very talented group,” Dyce said. “We’ll see how that shakes out as we move with as we move forward. We have tough decisions in that room as we move forward and try to figure out our actual game-day roster.”

And down the road, they’ll have to decide what they’re going to do about the quarterback situation.

“We really feel confident in the depth we’ve got in that room,” Dyce said.

Ultimately, it could be too much depth.

Dru Brown is the starter, with Dustin Crum as his backup and Jake Dunniway in the wing as the third.

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But Tyrie Adams and Jeremiah Masoli will return to health at some point — the former likely before the latter — and other teams in the league will be watching closely to see who may become available.

That stuff is for down the road, however.

Right now, with the Redblacks having a bye in Week 1, everybody can catch their breath.

When the team returns to the field on Thursday, Dyce can leave his talent evaluator’s cap behind and focus more on preparing the troops for the season opener against the Blue Bombers.

“(The cuts) are obviously part of being a head coach, but these regular-season games are what we live for, and work for, so super excited about that,” Dyce said. “Really jumping into the details of the game, and the preparation and the fine-tuning that goes into like game-planning, and making sure we prepare these guys so that they can put their best effort out there on the field.”

RELEASED:

American defensive back Abu Daramy-Swaray

American defensive back Jaylon McClain-Sapp

American defensive back Tywan Francis

American defensive back Dishon McNary

American defensive back Jordan Jones

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American linebacker Kaleb Oliver

American defensive lineman Divine Obichere

American defensive lineman Gerald Willis III

American defensive lineman Carson Taylor

National defensive lineman Alexander Fedchun

National longsnapper Simon Chaves

American receiver Jon’Vea Johnson

American receiver Andre Miller

American receiver Ryan McDaniel

National receiver Jahquan Bloomfield

National receiver Daniel Perry

American running back Ronnie Brown

American offensive lineman Austin Myers

American offensive lineman Samuel Jackson

National offensive lineman Cooper Hamilton

ADDED TO PRACTICE ROSTER:

National defensive back Dawson Pierre

National defensive back Yani Gouadfel

American defensive back Eli Stove

American defensive back Adrian Frye

American defensive back Bennett Williams

National linebacker Zachary Philion

Global linebacker Heston Lameta

American running back Kylin Hill

National offensive lineman Eric Starczala

American offensive lineman Drake Centers

Global offensive lineman Hector Zepeda

Global offensive lineman Isaac Moore

dbrennan@postmedia.com

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