Tough decisions ahead for Redblacks after lopsided loss to Riders in East semi

By The Canadian Press
November 14, 2017 - 12:00pm

OTTAWA — The disappointment of losing the East semifinal hadn't worn off as Ottawa Redblacks players and staff prepared to go their own ways Tuesday morning.

The defending Grey Cup champion's season came to an end Sunday afternoon in a 31-20 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and they were still struggling with how things finished.

"It's a little disappointing that our worst game of the year was played at the most important time," said Redblacks general manager Marcel Desjardins. "You’'e got to give the opposition some credit, but we made too many mistakes. We weren't on point enough and now it's up to us to correct this and get this going back in the right direction."

Figuring out what direction to take won't be an easy one for Desjardins. A number of key players are looking for new contracts, most notably quarterback Trevor Harris.

Despite posting some impressive numbers this season, many questions remain regarding Harris.

The 30-year-old threw for 4,679 yards, fourth best in the league and just 21 yards behind Calgary's Bo Levi Mitchell who played two more games. Harris had 30 touchdowns, tying him for first with Edmonton's Mike Reilly, who played three more games.

But he missed three games due to injury and was picked off five times over his past two games, including twice in the East semifinal.

"It's a tough one for me to swallow personally," said Harris. "As some of you guys know I'm a bit of a sore loser, but I've been told if you show me a good loser I'll show you a loser.

"It's disappointing, it's tough when you pour that much into a season and you come up short of your main goal."

Harris, coming off a two-year deal, said he wants to come back, but the question remains whether or not he fits into the Redblacks' plans.

Desjardins was non-committal when asked how he would rate Ottawa's quarterback position.

"I think it was good, it wasn't great," Desjardins said. "Stats are one thing. Trevor did a lot of great things for us and the stats certainly reflect that, but at the end of the day our record was what it was and we weren't able to obviously win the crucial game last weekend so it needs to be better. I think he's the first one to acknowledge that and know there's still room for improvement."

Desjardins did say the Redblacks would like to re-sign Harris, but "let's just hope that the numbers can work that way."

In addition to Harris the Redblacks will need to make decisions on receivers Brad Sinopoli and Diontae Spencer as well as running back William Powell.

Sinopoli surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the third straight year with the Redblacks, while Spencer emerged later in the season. Both could be of help to Ottawa.

Powell, once fully recovered from an Achilles injury, proved he can be extremely effective. In just 12 games he had 1,026 yards on 173 carries, good for second in the league.  Yet he had just eight carries in Sunday's loss, running for 50 yards.

While much will be made of the Redblacks offensive struggles, the defence had its fair share of shortcomings. 

The Redblacks need improvement on their pass rush, and a veteran presence on defence would be beneficial. Ottawa had a lot of youth on defence and management is hoping the experience gained this season will help improve things next year.

"It might be easy to point the finger at the defence because of its youth, but we need to re-evaluate the entire team," said Desjardins.

A complete re-build isn't the cards for the Redblacks, but losing the semifinal has forced them to take a close look at what needs to improve most.

"I still think there's a ton of good here and a lot of good coaches and players," said head coach Rick Campbell. "Obviously we’re going to need to improve to get where we want to go."

Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press

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