REDBLACKS KNOW WHAT THEY’VE GOTT IN RESERVE
Veteran centre is out, but Ottawa’s O-Line determined to protect quarterback Tate
The biggest concern should be less about how quarterback Drew Tate plays Sunday afternoon than whether he makes it to the end of the game.
If he exits early, there’s probably a better chance that it will be on a cart than a coach’s decision.
When Tate makes his first Redblacks start as the replacement for the injured Trevor Harris in Montreal, it will be behind an offensive line with a new centre and a new guard.
Now, it’s important to note that the Ottawa O-line has been no hell this season even when at full strength. As of Friday afternoon, the 30 sacks allowed by the Redblacks was a league high.
It’s surprising Harris survived as long as he did.
Against the Alouettes, Alex Mateas will make his first start as a pro snapper, filling in for all-star Jon Gott.
Rookie guard Evan Johnson will also be making his first start, either in Mateas’ vacated spot to the immediate left of the centre, or possibly to his right.
“The good news is that Mateas has played centre throughout his college career, he had multiple starts at the Division 1 level in NCAA, and he’s been here now for awhile, too, and he’s taken lots of reps at centre,” head coach Rick Campbell said Friday. “Pretty comforting. s“We’re obviously going to miss Jon, but we seem to not miss a beat at all in practice, with (Mateas) being able to snap and make the line calls and all the things centres have to do. He stepped in and did a great job in practice and I imagine it will be just the same in the game.”
Still, Mateas is no Gott, the centre for every game in Redblacks history. How long his stint on the sidelines will be, nobody knows — or at least nobody is saying. But it’s never a good sign when a guy who gives the ball to the QB has a cast on one of his hands.
“He’s holding out hope it’s not going to be long, and so he’s going to try to get healed up and take it week by week,” Campbell said of Gott, whose Ironman run lasted 66 games. “It’s sad to see that streak end, but at the same time we’ve still got a ways to go here, and he’ll be back when he’s back.”
Campbell has faith in Johnson, a versatile 23-year old who can play any position on the line.
“He’s got the right temperament, he’s athletic and he’s smart,” Campbell said of the 6-foot-4, 280-pounder from Saskatchewan who was the Redblacks’ first-round pick in 2017.
While Johnson practised on the left side at the start of the week, there were hints he could flip spots with right guard Nolan MacMillan. One of them came from right tackle Jason LauzonSequin.
“Me and Evan have got a really good relationship,” said LauzonSequin, who added playfully: “He can do some calls and help me.”
Meanwhile, left tackle SirVincent Rogers tried to minimize the switch at centre.
“I don’t think it changes our approach,” he said. “Of course, Jon Gott being a perennial allstar, being the best centre in this league, you definitely always want him there.”