Ottawa Redblacks management and its coaching staff have liked what they’ve seen from training camp, but are excited to see what its players can do in game action.
After two weeks of training camp Bob Dyce and the Ottawa Redblacks are ready to put the plan into action.
The Redblacks host the Montreal Alouettes Friday evening in the first of two pre-season games. Ottawa will play its second game June 1 against the Toronto Argonauts in Guelph, ON.
Dyce was named interim head coach last October after Paul LaPolice was let go. The 57-year-old has been with the organization since 2016, but this will be his first appearance on the sidelines since being given the reins on a permanent basis last December.
From the start Dyce and his staff have worked at creating a competitive, hard working group and to see the game plan put into action will be a welcome sight.
There are still battles to be won and while some players will get more reps than others, Dyce said it’s up to each player to make the most of their opportunity.
Although pre-season games can be played at a different intensity level, but Dyce said he still sees this as a key opportunity to evaluate talent and to give fans an idea of what they can expect this season.
“I’m excited to see these guys compete in front of their home fans for the first time,” said Dyce. “It’s our first opportunity to show the identity of the 2023 Redblacks team, so we talked about making sure we’re fast, physical and a dominant unit out there.”
While the goal will always be to win Dyce said he won’t put starters back in a game to ensure they get a victory at the end of the pre-season tilt.
There is strong competition at free safety as well as at tackle and defensive end and these two games could determine who takes those starting roles, he added.
The Redblacks also have some depth at wide receiver, but games don’t always present that many opportunities and so Dyce says all things are being taken into consideration.
“There’s a lot of things that you evaluate outside of how many times they get the ball in their hand,” said Dyce. “That’s why it’s a constant process of grading and evaluating. Evaluate how they are in a meeting, you evaluate how they are on the practice field, even the little things like walk through.
To no surprise starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli will not play in Friday’s game as the Redblacks continue to be cautious in their approach following his season ending leg injury last year in week five.
Nick Arbuckle, who signed a one-year extension in the off-season, will start the game while Tyrie Adams and Dustin Crum will also be given playing time.
While Arbuckle could have sought out opportunity elsewhere he and his wife made the decision to stay in Ottawa for both personal and professional reasons.
“We really loved the city,” said Arbuckle. “Another big part was coach Dyce and (Shawn) Burke and the staff they put together in December. There was a lot of belief in what we’re building here and what was to come, even back then.”
Arbuckle says the energy from the culture Dyce is trying to create is palpable and the group of players that has been assembled leaves everyone feeling enthused and energized.
“It’s a really fun group,” he said. “I think the talent is unquestionable, you see it from top to bottom.”
The first test of the season will come Friday night as the Redblacks will also look to shed its losing record at TD Place. Ottawa was 0-9 at home last season and is 1-23 since June 2019.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2023.
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press