It's Jonathon Jennings time as Redblacks get ready for Blue Bombers

Jonathan Jennings during Ottawa Redblacks training camp at TD Place in Ottawa Monday, May 20, 2019. Tony Caldwell / Postmedia

Share Adjust Comment Print

When Jonathon Jennings lines up behind centre Alex Mateas Friday night in Winnipeg, it’ll be the first meaningful regular-season snap he’s taken since Nov. 11 last season — when he was a B.C. Lion.

With Dominique Davis on the limp and unable to start as the 2-2 Redblacks try to knock off the heavily favoured 4-0 Blue Bombers, Jennings will try to do what he’s done plenty of times in his five-year CFL career — win.

“I waited a long time for this opportunity, it seems like,” said Jennings after Wednesday’s practice at TD Place. “I’m ready to go out and show what I’ve got.”

Asked about an adjustment to the Redblacks offensive schemes after four seasons with the Lions, Jennings said: “I’ve had four (offensive co-ordinators) in five years. So I’ve seen all you can see in playcalling.”

While Jennings was a backup to Travis Lulay much of last season, it was only three seasons ago, in 2016, the then-23-year-old looked like one of the rising stars of the league — throwing for 5,226 yards, with 27 touchdown passes. It was that kind of upside the Redblacks wanted to get a closer look at when they signed Jennings as a free agent in February.

Jonathon Jennings during Ottawa RedBlack training camp at TD Place in Ottawa Monday May 20, 2019. Tony Caldwell / Postmedia

“A lot of quarterbacks have had a rocky road,” said Jennings during training camp. “It doesn’t always go great. Even Mike Reilly, everything wasn’t always peachy for him. You have to continue to grow in the game, continue to understand the game and build the confidence that you’re the best.”

And now, Jennings tries to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

“I came into this league and was patient,” he said. “I’ve always trusted in God’s plan, that makes it easier for me to be patient. Anyone with a long career understands the ups and downs and trials. I’ve had some really good times and some lows. You have to go through a lot of stuff to grow to become the quarterback you’re supposed to be.”

SECOND AND LONG: The Blue Bombers may want to stick with an “underdog” mentality, but the oddsmakers sure don’t look at it that way. Winnipeg is being listed as a 10 1/2-point favourite to beat the Redblacks. Over at CFL.ca, all six writers picked the Bombers to win … It looks like Jerod Fernandez, who had 314 tackles in four years at North Carolina State, may get the start at middle linebacker Friday, with Avery Williams shifting to the WILL spot. “I’m definitely excited to get a chance to go out there and do what I do,” said Fernandez, who signed with the Redblacks early last week. “We feed off adversity. When you’re down, you fight back. This team has that in them. You can’t have your head down, you have to move forward.”

Montreal Alouettes Quan Bray makes a catch in front of Ottawa Redblacks DeAndre Farris during Canadian Football League preseason game in Montreal Thursday June 6, 2019. John Mahoney / Postmedia

MOVING AROUND: It looks like the Redblacks will go with a defensive backfield of field-side corner Randall Evans, halfback DeAndre Farris, safety Kishawn MacClain (in for injured Antoine Pruneau), field-side halfback Corey Tindal and cornerback Sherrod Baltimore. Said Redblacks coach Rick Campbell: “The guys you see out here practising, for the most part it looks like they’ll be playing. But we have one more day to declare that and figure out if anybody else is going to be healthy enough to go.” Said Baltimore, who had lined up at field half this season, “I know people say it all the time, but it’s all about Next Man Up, the next man has to be ready. We have to execute the call and make the plays. I feel confident with the players we have.” Asked about a shift in position, he said: “I’m one of the most versatile DBs in the league. My rookie season, I was rookie of the year at halfback. I made a lot of picks last year at corner, so it’s whatever.”

COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN: When Montreal Alouettes receiver Quan Bray raced 75 yards for a touchdown Saturday, there wasn’t a Redblack defender within 25 yards of him when he caught the pass from QB Vernon Adams. Bray ran right by Randall Evans, who didn’t find out he was starting at cornerback until the day before the game. It would be easy to blame Evans, but plenty went wrong on the play on the defensive side. Plus, the players aren’t about blaming each other.

“Nobody is going to point fingers,” said Evans. “We just needed to communicate on that play, that’ll make it easier for all of us. It’s something we can’t take back, it’s something we have to learn from. We corrected it and it won’t happen again. We’re on to Winnipeg. We can’t harp on what happened last week, that’s in the past, we can’t dwell on it.”

Asked about stepping into the lineup, he said: “We’re professionals. Day in and day out, you have to be ready. I’m just doing what I’ve done all my life. Even when I wasn’t (on the active roster), you have to think you’re one play away — I was taught that in college. You never know when you’ll be in. You need to practise like you’re about to play. When you are in the lineup, you don’t want to miss a beat.”

Evans said the players, coming off two losses, are upbeat.

“We have a whole lot of football left,” he said. “It’s still early in the season. We’re grinding … the Ws are going to come.”

MPP Lisa MacLeod with Henry Burris at the Redblacks practice at TD Place on Wednesday, July 17, 2019. Tim Baines / Postmedia

THE END AROUND: It looks like DeVonte Dedmon, who was released in training camp after an injury, then brought back, will play Friday. “He would have been playing in Game 1 had he not been hurt,” said Campbell. “We’re excited to see him, we think he has a lot of tools.” … Campbell said OL Nolan MacMillan, who was banged up last game, will play Friday. Asked about WR R.J. Harris, Campbell said: “He’s one of the question marks. He’s come around pretty well. He got on the field and practised today. He’s a hope now, we weren’t quite sure of that before.” Noel Thomas has been getting reps, but whether he plays or not seems to be tied to the health of Harris … Look for the Redblacks to try and get some passes into the hands of running back John Crockett, who will start ahead of Mossis Madu … There were some new looks from the receivers during Wednesday’s practice (this is a spoiler-free column) … It was a one-goalpost field Wednesday — one broke while it was being taken down (we assume temporarily) Tuesday … MPP Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, stopped by practice Wednesday and was chatting with former Redblacks QB and CFL on TSN panelist Henry Burris … The weather forecast for Winnipeg is saying there is a risk of strong thunderstorms Thursday, but it should be good come game time, with clear skies being called for Friday.

TBaines@postmedia.com

Twitter: @TimCBaines

 


ALSO IN THE NEWS:

Ottawa Redblacks GM: ‘I don’t talk to anybody after we lose’

That hurts! Injuries will sideline Redblacks’ Davis, Pruneau, Rose and Coate

Senators send Zack Smith to Chicago for Artem Anisimov


 

Comments