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Dyce, Redblacks open camp with sense of urgency following difficult 2023

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The Ottawa Redblacks opened training camp on Sunday as they prepare for the 2024 season. It was a tumultuous 2023 for Ottawa, as they finished tied for the worst record in the Canadian Football League at 4-14.

Head coach Bob Dyce, who is entering his second full year at the helm, says the club cannot be patient in learning a new offensive system as it looks to move forward and make the playoffs for the first time since 2018.

“We’re not in a position where we can have any patience. There’s a great sense of urgency here,” Dyce said during his media availability on Sunday. “We have to make sure we’re using every minute we’re on the field and in meeting rooms, and that we’re accomplishing our goals and moving forward.”

The team’s new offence will be spearheaded by Tommy Condell, who replaced Khari Jones as the offensive, and quarterback Dru Brown, who was acquired from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to be the new starter.

“The fact that it’s a new offence - really it’s no different,” said Dyce. “They need to understand what they need to do when they’re out on the field. We set our goals daily on what we need to accomplish, and they need to hit those goals.”

Brown, 26, was acquired from the Bombers in exchange for a fifth-round pick this past January and signed to a two-year contract extension by the club. He is expected to compete for the starting position with Dustin Crum, who started 15 games for the Redblacks last season.

Dyce praised the performance of both signal callers but did not hint who had the edge for the starting position. 

“I think both of those guys have a good command of the offence. For the most part, they did a good job of making sure the offence stayed on track,” said Dyce. “Just like everybody here, they can be better, and they’ll get better as they progress.”

The Redblacks held the second-overall pick in the 2024 CFL Draft, selecting wide receiver Nick Mardner out of Auburn. The team also brought in defensive lineman Daniel Okpoko and defensive back Dawson Pierre to bolster the defence with its second- and third-round picks, respectively.

Dyce says there has been an influx of talent competing for roster spots this season and hopes that the increased camp competition can help the Redblacks find impact players for the upcoming season.

“The more competition we have here is going to allow us to be a better team” said Dyce. “There are some guys who are really standing out and they have to be consistent in what they do throughout this camp to make an impact.

“We want [rookies] to be able to come in and acclimatize themselves and be able to compete at the same level as the veterans. Everyone is competing for a job. There’s no special treatment. Our coaches are elite educators, they teach them what they need to know and they gotta go out and produce.”

The Redblacks allowed a league-high 63 sacks last season and struggled with consistency across the offensive line. When asked about the state of the right tackle position, Dyce singled out 2023 first-overall pick Dontae Bull and 2022 second-overall pick Zack Pelehos as two players who need to get better.

“They both have to be better than what they have been. We invested high draft picks in those guys and we expect them to play at a high level,” said Dyce. “This is a competitive league. I have the utmost confidence that they will be better as camp goes forward.”

Wide receiver Bralon Addison did not practice on Sunday, but Dyce said the wide receiver is dealing with a nagging injury that is not related to the Achilles tendon tear he sustained in 2022 and kept him out until Week 12 last season.

The Redblacks will play their first preseason game on May 25 in Hamilton against the Tiger-Cats and begin the regular season at home one June 13 against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.