Best PicksThe Dominiques: Davis and Rhymes’ offseason training has helped lead to early season breakout with Ottawa Redblacks

The Dominiques: Davis and Rhymes’ offseason training has helped lead to early season breakout with Ottawa Redblacks

The Dominiques: Davis and Rhymes’ offseason training has helped lead to early season breakout with Ottawa Redblacks
Photo credit: Patrick Doyle (CFL)


Dominique Davis and Dominique Rhymes were largely backups and role players last season with the Ottawa Redblacks. Now, after an offseason of roster changes and downfield chemistry built together, Davis is the starting quarterback and Rhymes is his go-to receiver.

Rhymes is Ottawa’s leading pass-catcher so far this season and is set to hit career highs in all major receiving categories within the next couple games. The breakout performance did not come out of thin air though. The Dominiques worked all offseason together while they were home away from Ottawa.

“We signed back and just seeing that we were close together in Florida, we just decided to link up for most of the offseason,” said Davis.

The pair practiced in the winter and spring together in Florida. Both Florida natives, the Dominiques live roughly 45 minutes away in the sunshine state and decided to hone their craft and build a connection together while preparing for the upcoming season. They worked on different routes and route timing.

The offseason workouts were perhaps a product of the convenience of how close they were together geographically but the connection built seems to be paying dividends this season on the field.

“We had that connection that we wanted to grow,” said Rhymes. “Last year, you could see he liked throwing me the ball. If I could get that better for this season to help the team out, I’m all for it.”

Davis is a strong-armed quarterback with a talent for dropping high-hanging deep balls for his receivers downfield. That works well for Rhymes in particular. Rhymes stands six feet four inches tall with long arms made for the downfield passing game. When Davis is able to drop-in high passes for Rhymes on deep throws, Rhymes is usually in great position to bring the ball down.

It seems like the perfect relation of skill sets. What every quarterback-receiver needs though is chemistry, which means reps. While in backup roles in 2018, the pair practiced together with the second-team offence for most of the season. Then this offseason, they continued that connection.

Rhymes started eight games for Ottawa (about half the season) but was the fifth or sixth receiving option throughout the year. Davis was the backup to Trevor Harris and was largely used as a short-yardage specialist to help pickup close first downs on the ground.

In the regular season finale against the Argonauts, both him and Davis started in place of the Redblacks’ regular starters. Davis was replaced at halftime but the pair connected throughout the first half. Rhymes had 76 yards receiving courtesy of Davis by halftime. It may have not been obvious at the time but it was a sign of things to come.

Harris left in the offseason’s free agency period, as did receivers Greg Ellingson and Diontae Spencer. That opened up a huge opportunity for Davis and Rhymes, who both re-signed with Ottawa.

Through only three games, Rhymes is only 70 yards and four receptions away from setting single-season career highs. He is also leading the CFL in second down conversion receptions.

“I just did the things I did before but stayed consistent with my work ethic,” said Rhymes.

As a team, Ottawa is middle of the pack in the CFL in deep passing plays. So far, the Redblacks have seven completions of 20 yards or more and four of 30 yards or more.

Rhymes has contributed nearly 50% of those downfield receptions himself. It seems like the best way to utilize Rhymes and the Redblacks coaching staff has put him in that position throughout the team’s first three games.

“Whatever coach calls. It has turned out to be that way,” said Rhymes.

Rhymes is averaging over 16 yards of depth per target this season. His routes have often been go-routes or deep comebacks. With his skillset and measurables, Rhymes has been able to win his one-on-one downfield matchups more often than not.

When Rhymes has positioning over the top of an opposing defensive back, the matchup is usually won. That was abundantly clear against the Roughriders in week two, when Rhymes caught 11 of his 12 targets for 168 yards and a touchdown.

After the win, both Davis and Rhymes pointed to the work they put in together in the offseason to help build that rapport.

“We been working since the offseason with our route timing,” said Rhymes after Saskatchewan game. “Dom is an amazing quarterback and he puts the ball in the perfect places to make plays.”

Here are a couple examples of just that:

via GIPHY

Although it was a distinctly negative play, take a look at this Davis interception he threw last week against Winnipeg. Winston Rose was in perfect position for the pick but Davis’ attempt to fit the ball in shows the faith he has in Rhymes downfield.

And then there is this play in week one against the Stampeders. The pass was broken up by a fantastic play from DB Tre Roberson after a slight underthrow from Davis, but again it shows how the Redblacks want to use Rhymes in the offence and Davis’ willingness to give his receiver a chance to win a one-on-one downfield matchup. He clearly trusts Rhymes to win downfield on 50/50 type throws when in single coverage.

via GIPHY

The impact of a feared downfield receiver can stretch beyond just the individual pass-catcher. When Rhymes is having his way downfield, it forces an opposing defence to make adjustments in coverage. That allows for the Redblacks’ other receivers to have more space to work in other areas of the field, especially in the short and intermediate passing game.

When asked to grade his performance this season, Rhymes says he is still looking to improve. He wants to play more efficiently, put himself in better positions to get yards after the catch and to be a bigger threat in the red zone.

“Finishing in the endzone. Scoring more points for our team,” said Rhymes.

The Ottawa offence was kept out of the endzone entirely last game against the Blue Bombers. After the loss to Winnipeg, the Redblacks are looking to bounce back at home this weekend. They host the Alouettes this Saturday at TD Place. The matchup seems like a favourable one for the Davis-Rhymes connection.

Montreal has allowed the second most 30-plus yard pass plays this season. Keep an eye on the Dominiques to connect on big plays downfield this weekend and, perhaps, all season long.

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