OTTAWA — The changes keep coming for the Redblacks, with running back Chevon Walker being the latest casualty.
Walker was the third player released this week following defensive back Brandon McDonald, Ottawa’s leading tackler, and punter Andy Wilder.
Walker was a popular player, but 28-year-old’s productivity was below management’s expectations. Walker had 78 carries for 287 yards this season, averaging 3.7 yards per attempt and no touchdowns.
The Redblacks believe Jeremiah Johnson will prove to be more productive in the role and see potential in some of their other running backs.
Johnson won’t have to wait long to prove his worth as the 4-4 Redblacks host the winless Saskatchewan Roughriders (0-8) Sunday afternoon at TD Place. He says he’s looking forward to getting more opportunity, but was sad to see good friend Walker go.
“This business is something you know you’re going to have quick friends and then you’re going to have long friends and that’s why you have to come out here with the intention of putting your best foot forward every single time, every single time you step on that field even in practice and even in a game.”
Johnson has just 30 carries for 86 rushing yards and 13 catches for 84 receiving yards this season, but has scored three touchdowns, including two last week against Toronto.
“We feel (Jeremiah Johnson) is better suited for what we want to do than Chevon and we just felt at this point we’re better moving forward, as an organization, without him as part of our roster,” said Redblacks general manager Marcel Desjardins. “The main reason Jeremiah is playing right now is because he will hit the holes that are there whereas Chevon attempted to try to bounce it outside and was trying to hit that home run. We want somebody who is going to be decisive and basically just do what the play calls for as opposed to trying to stretch things out.
“Unfortunately I don’t think (Walker) is where he was last year and that obviously plays into our decision.”
Desjardins added “this is about who the best player is for our purposes right now,” but the move will also save the Redblacks some significant money.
Johnson says the Redblacks can ill afford to take the winless Riders lightly. Saskatchewan will be desperate to put an end to its losing streak and probably think Ottawa is a good place to start, with the Redblacks having lost their last two.
“Not for one minute does this team think that Saskatchewan is the low bottom team,” said Johnson. “We just came off two losses so we’re not going to lay down for anybody. We want this win just as much they want to get theirs.”
Ottawa quarterback Henry Burris realizes everyone considers the Roughriders desperate, but says the Redblacks are as well.
“We’ve lost two in a row and right now we’ve got to get a win,” said Burris. “We’re tied with Montreal and still a couple games behind the frontrunners in Hamilton and Toronto so right now we have no room to look at Saskatchewan as a team that we’re just going to walk over because we haven’t won in a couple of weeks.
“We’re a desperate team ourselves and we need to do what we can to get a victory.”
After watching hours of tape, Redblacks coach Rick Campbell says Saskatchewan is much better than its record indicates and Ottawa will need to play much more disciplined than last week when they took 20 penalties for 228 yards.
“We don’t look at them any different than any other team that you have to be at your best to beat because everybody is pretty close in this league,” said Campbell. “They play hard and have a lot of very good players who have won football games.”
Notes: Running back Travon Van is expected to make his CFL debut Sunday.