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Redblacks changes on offensive include new line coach with Grey Cup

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Why did the Ottawa Redblacks struggle offensively last season?

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Why did they allow the most sacks in the CFL while having the worst passing game in the league?

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Was it because injuries forced them to use a quarterback who arrived at training camp fourth on the depth chart or was it because their offensive line was inadequate?

Most likely it was a combination of both.

While making some major additions with a new offensive coordinator in Tommy Condell, a new quarterback in Dru Brown and a new star receiver in

Dominique Rhymes, the Redblacks also have a new offensive line coach in Pat Perles, who hasn’t worked in the CFL since the turn of the century.

He did step away on a high, however, as the O-line coach of the 1999 Grey Cup-winning Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

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“The offensive line played with great physicality last year … we always say we’re going to be a physical team and they did that,” coach Bob Dyce said

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Thursday, Day 5 of this year’s camp. “I think we have to be better in our communication with one another. I think when you’re not as confident, you don’t play well, and they didn’t play with great confidence at times.

“You can see we didn’t make a whole lot of changes, we have a lot of really good players, and giving them the structure they need will allow them to have that confidence.

“Coach Perlis is doing a great job of breaking them down and building them back, and we anticipate them playing very, very good football.”

Before Hamilton, Perles was the offensive line coach for the Saskatchewan Roughriders (1994-96) and Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1997). He has NFL experience as a defensive assistant with the Los Angeles Rams (1992-93) and was with the Kansas City Chiefs as a defensive quality coach in 2009 and assistant offensive line coach in 2010 and 2011, and he also has coached in the NCAA with Toledo, North Dakota State, Syracuse and Michigan State.

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“He’s been coaching football at a high level,” Dyce said. “He’s a technician. Yeah, there’s some variance with being a coach in the U.S., but he’s such a great coach that that’s there’s no concern with (Perles not being in the CFL for 25 years) at all.

“When you have someone who has got a background like Pat has been in the CFL and he’s available, you want to jump on that and we were lucky enough that he wanted to come.

“You’ve seen him out there, he’s excited about everything,” Dyce added. “He was just as excited about coming back and coaching in Canada, and so we were ecstatic to get a coach with his resume.”

Perles is used to being on the move.

He and his wife Karen, a St. Catharines girl, have moved eight times since they were married 24 years ago.

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“If you get a good (packing) box, you keep it,” Perlis said.

“I’m certainly happy to be here. My wife’s been wanting to come back, she’s a proud Canadian, so everything just worked out.

“You don’t get to choose as a coach where you go and when you go. You assess everything year by year. Some years you have a job other years you don’t, but it’s a year to year thing. The unfortunate part about it is just that.”

What Perles should be working with is an offensive line that features, from left to right, Dino Boyd, Drew Desjarlais, Cyrille Hogan-Saindon, Dariusz Bladek and Zack Pelehos.

Drake Centres and Dontae Bull will likely be the backups at the tackle positions, while Jacob Ruby and Phillip Norman round out the group.

Asked what he has seen from the O-line thus far, Perles said: “It’s so early. We’re just trying to work every day to get a little bit better, but what I am seeing is high effort. We got a lot of smart guys and we got a lot of toughness right now.”

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While the biggest difference for linemen between U.S. and Canadian football is the yard between them and defenders here, Perles says “you’re still searching for the same thing and players that are good, good people, dependable people, that happen to play football.

“I think it’s important to bring effort, toughness intelligence to the table. It’s those are things that are really hard to coach. We say we’re not going to coach effort. That’s part of the expectation. So, you know, we’re given a lot of positive feedback, but we’re also making a lot of corrections.”

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Pelehos, a 6-foot-6, 300-pounder from Gananoque who was drafted second overall in 2022, says “it’s been amazing” to work with Perles.

“He’s really being strong on our group,” Pelehos said. “He’s trying to push us to the limit and see how far we can go. He wants to have the five best guys in the room going on the field every single time.”

After starting just 10 games last year, Pelehos is determined to be one of those five.

“We’re always on the on the field as five, so the biggest thing is that we got to work together. We want to be we a ‘we’ and not a ‘me’, if that makes sense,” he said. “When I’m on the field, my goal iin the trenches is to be physical. Every year you show up, you’ve got to have that physicality showing on the field. If you don’t have that, then it’s gonna be it’s going to be a long game.”

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GOING DEEP

Among those either not practising or taking part in only some of it on Thursday was DB Bradin Dandridge, S Justin Howell, WR DeVonte Dedmon, OT Dontae Bull and OGs Drew Desjarlais and Dariusz Bladek. Dyce said there is “nothing major” in terms of the injuries. About Howell, who has missed the last two days, Dyce said: “We’ll see what happens with regards to him. He’s just working through something right now and hopefully that’ll be taken care of shortly.” And on when quarterbacks Jeremiah Masoli and Tyrie Adams will be far enough along in their recovery from injuries to take part the field, Dyce stated: “We’re just going to take it as the medical department says. The biggest thing for us is we want them to be 100%. We don’t want any setbacks or anything like that. They’re doing well, you see them out there moving, but we want to make sure they’re 100% before we get them on the field, so when they are on the field they stay on the field.”

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