OTTAWA — The Ottawa Redblacks are hoping Jonathon Jennings can provide a spark as they prepare for the final eight games of the regular season.
The Redblacks said Tuesday that they replace the struggling quarterback Dominique Davis with Jennings when they return to action on Saturday against the visiting Toronto Argonauts. With a 3-7 record, the Redblacks sit third in the East Division and will need a solid finish down the stretch to make the playoffs.
“We just feel like it’s the best move for right now,” Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell said. “I’m still a believer in Dom. I just think we got some traction going in the last game, got to see some good stuff and I think we can win with the guy so that’s what we’re doing.”
The Redblacks are coming off a bye week following a 40-18 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders where Davis was pulled after going 3-for-6 with three interceptions. Jennings finished the game going 16-for-26 for 208 yards and one touchdown.
Davis has fallen far short of expectations this season. Given his first starting job in training camp the 30-year-old has struggled in the new role and appears to be headed to the sidelines.
Through eight games, Davis is 169-for-271 for 1,846 yards with a league-leading 14 interceptions.
Campbell wouldn’t commit to the 27-year-old Jennings starting for the remainder of the season.
“We don’t want to do a thing where we’re bouncing around from guy-to-guy, but we said for this week we’re going to do this and hopefully it’s a long-term thing,” Campbell said. “We’ll do this and worry about this game and go from there.”
Redblacks general manager Marcel Desjardins believes there’s time to turn things around.
“Go back to 2017, we were 1-6-1. You can’t predict anything. Yeah, we’re 3-7, could we easily be 5-5? Yeah, we could. Has it been pretty? No, not by any stretch. We’ve had our challenges on offence we’ve had our challenges with being unable to maintain consistency to the roster.
“(Saturday’s game) is important. It’s not in the context of do or die, but it’s a very, very important game – mostly because it’s the next one and because we can’t afford any slip-ups moving forward.”
Jennings lost both his previous starts this season when Davis was injured, including an ugly 31-1 loss to Winnipeg where he threw for just 45 yards.
“I don’t think anyone has seen me and my true colours,” said Jennings. “I’m excited to go out there and have another opportunity at it.
“You’ve got to go out there and take it one play at a time,” he added. “When you try to put too much on your back it makes it too tough. We’re a team still, no matter what. We all have to go out there and execute to win games.
“It’s not all on me and it’s not all on the next guy, but we’ve all got to go out there and battle and compete and go out there with the right mentality and I think we’ve got the right group of guys to find a way to manage some wins.”
Joe Paopao, who recently took over as quarterbacks coach and play calling for Ottawa, believes part of the problem is players being afraid to make mistakes.
“You can only control what you can, just like in life,” Paopao said. “Control your mindset, your ability to be the best version of yourself and hopefully as professionals each guy takes stock of their performance and their approach.”
Paopao said not to expect any big changes just because Jennings will be under centre.
“We are who we are, like most teams you’re not going to change in the middle of the season everything you do,” said Paopao. “You fine tune some things. You identify their strengths and how do you play to those strengths, but it’s a team effort. It’s always on the quarterback, but he still needs 11 other guys around him too.”
It’s already been a big week for Jennings as his wife, Abby, gave birth to the couple’s first child Monday, a baby girl named Ava.