In a position to make playoffs

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

The Renegades are better than a lot of people think.

In what is commonly referred to as a quarterback-driven league, they have the deepest and most desirable situation this side of Edmonton.

They appear considerably healthier in that area than the other two teams in Ontario who are hoping for 40-something passers to stay injury-free and productive for 18 games.

The Renegades controls are in the hands of a man on a mission, a guy who is entering the prime of his career. At least two teams in their division are relying on brittle gentlemen in the twilight of their exceptional careers.

The other club has a curious reluctance to sign a decent backup, even after it cost them severely last season.

And ask every GM who he'd like to have of all the CFL quarterbacks yet to hold the No.1 job in this league, and the overwhelming majority would turn to the Ottawa roster. Take that to the Banks.

The offensive line should be fine, largely because of a willingness and ability to use Americans that can bulk up the protection, if necessary.

Their defence, under co-ordinator Greg Marshall, promises to be much better than it was last season. They appear to have a seriously-improved secondary, an area that has been a problem for the Renegades throughout their three year existence.

Kicking game question mark

The kicking game remains a question mark, but options are available if the current job holders struggle.

Unlike last season, ownership seems prepared to plug holes with cash. That's a huge difference maker to a team that has been haunted by injuries in the past.

The playoffs, it says here, will finally be a reality for the Renegades.

The following is a position by position breakdown, with a grade (out of 10) for each unit that takes in depth, ability and where it stands in relation to other positions on the team:

Quarterbacks:

Kerry Joseph is 20 lbs. lighter and determined to prove the accolades he received last year, when leading the Renegades to a 3-0 start, were deserved. He won't talk about possible NFL quarterback aspirations, but if he still has a desire to get back into a league he once played in as a safety, this is a must-shine season for the 31-year old former Seattle Seahawk. He has the physical tools to be the most dominant QB in the East, if not the entire CFL, but he has to prove he has the mindset -- and the ability to stay healthy. Darnell Kennedy starts the season as No. 2, but he likely wouldn't even be back with the team had Brad Banks not suffered a shoulder injury. When Banks comes back, the Renegades will have to decide whether to cut Kennedy adrift or place third-stringer Paul Peterson on the practise roster. It's unlikely they'll cut Peterson outright, as its believed he has the makeup to be another Dave Dickenson. Grade: 8.5

Offensive Line

Import left tackle Reggie Nelson starts the season on the sidelines with a sprained ankle, leaving rookie Marc Parenteau to battle sack specialist Joe Montford in his first game since 2002. Next in line are Val St. Germain (left guard) and centre George Hudson, the unit's best two players and capable of helping any line in the league. Newcomer Pascal Cheron, a former Ticat, starts at right guard. The jury is out on him, as it's unusual for teams to trade a Canadian O-lineman, as Hamilton did with Cheron, for a second-round pick. Sophomore Ibrahim Khan, who many expect to become a CFL star, is the right tackle. With Mike Sutherland sidelined (broken finger), Jean-Francois Roy has been signed off the practise roster and will serve as the lone backup on the line for the opener. The Renegades have two other offensive linemen in the wings -- import guard Morris Unutoa (practise roster) and guard Samir Chahine (hamstring). Grade: 6.5

Running Backs

Josh Ranek returns as the starting tailback and has proved that - along with being a fan favourite that has a lot of fight -- he possesses the capabilities to be one of the league's top rushers. The Renegades just have to make sure they give him the opportunities/ball, something they stopped doing last year. Replacing Raymonn Adams has his backup is Ka'Ron Coleman, whose father Ronnie used to play alongside Earl Campbell. Coleman (ankle) starts the season injured, but he should also help Ottawa as a return specialist when he gets back, as he was one of the best in the business when he was in college. Starting at fullback is rookie Cory Hathaway, a tremendous positive for the Renegades as he was a fourth-round pick and tight end at college (Tulsa). Serving as the backup fullback is Gilles Lezi, a former 10th-overall pick who started for the Edmonton Eskimos last year as a rookie. Grade: 7.5

Receivers:

The re-signing of Jason Armstead was the Renegades biggest free-agent coup of the winter. Armstead and Joseph hooked up for two scoring bombs in three quarters of work in the pre-season, and that combination should prove to give Ottawa a deep threat that matches with any other. Lining up at the slot position on the wide side of the field next to Armstead is dependable veteran Yo Murphy. On the shortside of the field, Ottawa starts the season with wideout Frank Cutolo, the West Division's most outstanding rookie in 2003, and Pat Woodcock on the inside. Woodcock has already been plagued by hamstring problems, which have held talk of a bounce-back season for the Kanata product to a whisper. Who knows how much he'll figure into the passing plans in 2005. The Renegades will work receivers Sean Bennett and Markus Howell into the game. The speedy Howell, an non-import free agent signee and Woodcock's backup, could prove to be a tremendous addition. The problem here is size. There's a glaring absence of a big-target starter the Renegades determined to be their most pressing need in the off-season. Cutolo, Armstead, Murphy and Howell are all 5-foot-10, while Woodcock is 5-foot-9. Bennett, who is Murphy's backup, is 6-foot-2. Starting the season injured are Ottawa lads David Azzi and Darryl Ray. Grade: 7

Defensive Line

Ray Jacobs joins the team after a year away from the game that was forced by some off-field trouble he got himself into as a B.C. Lion. He has an imposing physique and the credentials to give the Renegades their first legitimate rush end in four years. He did little of note in two pre-season games, however, and there's question of whether he was just shaking off rust or he's lost a bit of the edge that made him a West Division all-star. Ottawa natives Marc Pilon and Cam Legault, both of whom were signed as free agents in the off-season, will rotate at the tackle spot next to Jacobs. Jerome Haywood, a low to the ground (5-foot-9, 280 lbs.) returns to give the Renegades a tackle that forces adjustments from opposing O-lineman. Promising import Kai Ellis is at the other end, with the time being now for him to fulfill that promise. The Renegades have three defensive linemen still around. Imports Johnny Scott (suspended) and A.C. Collier (practise roster), with former Gee-Gee Adrian Baird also on P.R. Scott is a run-stopper who has starred in the league over the last 11 years. Collier, a second year Renegade, beat out John Turntine for his spot. Grade: 7

Secondary:

The short side of the field will be manned by Bo Rogers (corner) and Korey Banks (half), Ottawa's two best defensive backfielders. Former Eskimo Quincy Coleman, an import, starts at safety. Coleman made a couple of nice plays and also was scorched in the pre-season, so that will be a position to monitor. Da'Shann Austin joined the team at the end of camp and immediately inherited the wideside halfback spot. He comes with a reputation as a physical player who can cover with the best of them -- so why did B.C. release him? Rookie Greg Moss, just 22 years of age, starts at the wideside corner spot and he, too, will be under the microscope. While Sean Weston is the backup halfback, second stringers in the secondary include three non-imports: Safety Greg Bearman and corners Dave Donaldson and Donnie Ruiz. Cornerback Crance Clemons will help, when he finally returns from a knee injury. Shy on overall experience, the Renegades' secondary appears to have some potential. Grade: 6.5

Kicking:

Long snapper Marc Pilon replaces Steve Glenn. Strong-legged Pat Fleming is determined to rebound from a season in which he was last in the league in punting. Kicker Matt Kellett has had vision problems and has to wear glasses under his helmet. Kellett also says he has to avoid contact and hard running. The potential problems are obvious. Grade: 3.5.

Linebacker:

Ageless veteran Gerald Vaughn returns as the shortside linebacker, looking for all the world like he can still make plays as well as provide the vocal leadership he has made his trademark. Keaton Cromartie's outstanding camp forced the coaching staff to find a position for him, and he moves from the defensive line to middle linebacker. He'll be spelled by veteran non-import Jason Kralt. Kyries Hebert starts out as the wideside linebacker and should provide necessary speed and physicality. Newcomer Robert Grant will also see time at the position as well as at safety. Grade: 7

Return Game:

Coach Jim Clark is the special teams co-ordinator, with Jason Armstead and Markus Howell starting out as his primary returners. Grade: 7


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