'Gades licking their wounds

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:04 AM ET

Joe Paopao stood on the sidelines at Frank Clair Stadium the other day at high noon, stretched his arms out in the hot sun and said: "Hey, we're in first place. Woo!"

The Renegades coach-GM then chuckled.

Paopao could enjoy his moment in the sun as his players enjoyed two much-needed off-days on the weekend. They'll be back at work today.

Okay, so Paopao's team is 2-3 and tied for first in what's shaping up as the CFL's Least Division (the four Eastern teams were a combined 6-11 after Hamilton lost to B.C. on Saturday night).

No matter. Not many fans would have given the Renegades two wins at this point in their pre-season evaluation given the difficulty of Ottawa's first six games.

But now the Renegades are just about through what shapes up as the most difficult third of their 18-game schedule with a meeting with the 3-2 Saskatchewan Roughriders coming up Friday on the Prairies to close out that first six-game segment.

A win Friday night and the Renegades will be sitting at .500 and looking pretty good, right?

Not that it will be easy.

In their previous three seasons, this has been typically when things start going south for Ottawa.

The Renegades have been decent in the first five games of each of their first four seasons. In those 20 games, they are now a combined 9-11.

They finished up their first three seasons a combined 9-30.

Other teams get a bead on the Renegades' schemes at this time of year and this is when the injuries start to pile up, testing teams' depth (the Roughriders had seven starters out for Saturday night's loss to the Calgary Stampeders).

It's hard to find replacements now. Other CFL teams don't want to give up their depth and players south of the border still harbour hopes of making an NFL roster.

TOUGH SCHEDULE

"These couple of days (off) couldn't have come at a better time," said Paopao. "We just played three games in 13 days. We're a little worn down. We're assessing things on a daily basis.

"My concern now is not having guys healthy enough on a weekly basis."

The two biggest areas of concern are the kicking game and the offensive line.

Kicker Matt Kellett is a question mark for Friday with a groin pull. If he can't go, local product Mark Irvin is being considered for the field-goal duties.

The Renegades lost another offensive lineman in Thursday's loss to Edmonton when Mike Sutherland broke another bone in his hand. He joins Reggie Nelson (ankle) and Ibrahim Khan (knee) on the sidelines.

The club is expected to add tackle Freddie Moore, a starter last year for B.C. before being released, and Samir Chahine, who was cut by the Renegades a couple of weeks ago.

On the bright side, Gerald Vaughn might return this week to the linebacker position hurt by the loss of middle linebacker Keaton Cromartie (knee).


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