Sunday, February 22, 2015

REDBLACKS Receivers Have Plenty To Prove in 2015

According to the latest fan poll on, the Ottawa REDBLACKS went from having the worst receiving corps in the East Division to having the best after bringing in four new targets for Henry Burris this off-season.

In my opinion, that is simply not the case. It's also unfair to suggest that considering none of their new acquisitions have played a single down in Ottawa with the trademark 'R' on each side of their helmet.

When I look at the REDBLACKS receiving corps, I see several unproven players in Maurice Price, Greg Ellingson, Brad Sinopoli and Ernest Jackson; who will all be granted bigger roles with Ottawa in comparison to where they were on the depth chart with their former teams. Ottawa went into the off-season with a need to bolster their receiving corps and brought in four potential, but unproven receivers for an expensive price.

As it stands, Ottawa has no go-to receiver that defences have to game-plan around. If you look around the Eastern Division, the Argonauts have Chad Owens; the Alouettes have SJ Green and the Tiger-Cats have Luke Tasker. Ottawa's receiving corps has other teams' third and fourth receivers who they are hoping can blossom in a bigger role. Price, Ellingson and Jackson have all shown flashes of becoming bona-fide receivers, but overall haven't been consistent enough during their young careers to achieve that potential.

Ernest Jackson had a brilliant month of October, amassing 438 yards and two touchdowns; good enough for Offensive Player of the Month honors. Despite those incredible numbers, Jackson only had a total of 813 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2014 over 18 games, which isn't all that good considering over 50% of that was achieved in 3 game stretch. Without his great month of October, I highly doubt Ottawa would have offered him anywhere close to the $130,000 he will be making in 2015.

Maurice Price was deemed expendable in Calgary after only appearing in 29 of a possible 54 games since 2012 due to injury. Price was usually productive when he was in the lineup, demonstrating some unique speed and big-play capabilities during his time with Kevin Glenn as his Quarterback. Despite that, his career high for receiving yards in a season is only 788 yards, and he will no longer be surrounded with the talent he once was in Calgary.

If the rumours of Ottawa signing former Tiger-Cat receiver Greg Ellingson for $310k over two seasons are true, then money-wise, that is the worst free agent signing of 2015. Ellingson was well on his way to rookie of the year honours in 2013 before missing 6 games due to injury, leaving him at an impressive 800 yards in his rookie year. What confuses things is that Ellingson slowly became an after-thought for the Ti-Cats in 2014 and followed up his great rookie campaign with only 429 yards as a depth receiver after Luke Tasker emerged. Ottawa will be hoping Ellingson can return to his rookie form and eventually build on it, as they're paying him like his sophomore slump never happened.

In my opinion, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats boast the most elite receiving corps in the East Division. They have a number one receiver in Luke Tasker and two solid national receivers in former 1000 yard Slot-back Andy Fantuz and newly-signed former-Argo Spencer Watt. Hamilton has two talented international receivers behind Tasker in Bakari Grant (should he be re-signed) and X-factor Brandon Banks, who could be in for a breakout season after signing a big extension in January. They also have some decent depth in Cary Koch, Terell Sinkfield and Quincy McDuffie.

When you compare the REDBLACKS' and Ti-Cats' receiving corps, it's Luke Tasker, Andy Fantuz and Spencer Watt that really give Hamilton the edge. Despite Tasker not eclipsing 1000 yards in his first season as a starter (he had 937 in 2014), I think the sky is the limit for the 26 year product of Cornell University. Tasker quickly became Zach Collaros' favourite target when he returned from a concussion and was one of the league's best receivers after the catch.

When you compare Hamilton's national receiving depth to Ottawa's, it's not even a competition. Hamilton has arguably the best national receiver in Andy Fantuz and a solid compliment to the former league all-star in the newly-signed deep threat Spencer Watt, who has put up consistent numbers as a depth receiver with Toronto. Ottawa's number one Canadian receiver is former Ottawa Gee Gee Quarterback-turned-Stampeders-receiver Brad Sinopoli. While I am a huge fan of Sinopoli, he is still completely unproven and hasn't really shown any signs of becoming the next Andy Fantuz or Chris Getzlaf while playing behind Anthony Parker and Simon Charbonneau-Campeau in Calgary.

With all this being said, I do like what REDBLACKS general manager Marcel Desjardins has done with Henry Burris' receiving corps, I just don't think it's fair to suggest they now have the best group of pass-catches in the East despite not playing a single down or having a proven guy in the lineup. It was obvious very early on in the Ottawa Redblacks' inaugural season that they needed a lot of help at the receiver position and Desjardins did everything he could to take care of that problem. As it stands, how good Ottawa's receiving corps will be remains unknown, but it is a sure-fact that it'll be more productive than last year.

REDBLACKS fans have every reason to be optimistic and excited for the 2015 football season.

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