Berg vs. Ferg is back for 2019 as columnists Pat Steinberg and Marshall Ferguson debate over some of the league’s most contentious storylines. This week’s question: Which young quarterback has made the biggest statement?
TORONTO — It was a year ago that Bombers quarterback Matt Nichols was injured and a new up-and-coming star was born.
Chris Streveler seized the opportunity as a 23-year-old kid who had just arrived from the University of South Dakota, combining youthful exuberance with eye-opening athleticism to emerge as the Bombers’ quarterback of the future.
Some people believe Streveler could push Nichols for the starting job in the not-too-distant future, as the world begins taking note of the next ones in line — those behind current stars Mike Reilly, Bo Levi Mitchell and Jeremiah Masoli, among others.
Experienced veterans like Darian Durant and Kevin Glenn might have been fine backups this year, but teams around the CFL are searching from within — not just for a second-string insurance policy, but for their own quarterback to develop and one day take over the No. 1 job.
Like Streveler last year, some backups around the CFL have made the most of their extended playing time in pre-season. Nick Arbuckle and Montell Cozart both looked good in Calgary, while Hamilton’s Dane Evans is showing why he made Johnny Manziel expendable via trade last summer.
I know, I went with the Hamilton guy. Shocking right?
Do your best not to misinterpret this as some sort of black and gold passer fascination, but rather an honest opinion on someone I’ve gotten to understand better over the last two years than I ever could have imagined.
The backup quarterback’s job can include short yardage or being an extra pair of eyes for the starter, sometimes even helping to warm up the star quarterback’s arm or making sure the right personnel package enters the game when called for.
Evans does it all while still maintaining a constantly improving level of play as he becomes more and more acclimated to the Canadian game.
A backup can create tension if unhappy with their role, and that frustration can manifest itself in poor decisions on the field, but Evans has always maintained a happy-go-lucky demeanour while having that laser focus that coaches want in a backup asked to fill in during moments of injury or garbage time.
Evans has a consistent release and can push the ball vertically while having an efficient throwing motion that allows the Tulsa product to deliver the ball in all kinds of shapes and angles to awaiting receivers.
Will Dane Evans ever be a starter in the CFL? Who knows. Anything could happen in Hamilton or any of the other eight CFL franchises, but for my money I want a backup quarterback who understands their strengths AND limitations. In re-signing with Hamilton this year Evans essentially sent a message to CFL fans everywhere: ‘I’m coming, I might not be there yet and I love my current situation, but when the time is right I’ll make my mark’.
I love that. I’ve watched Dane at Ticats practice for the last two years and think – when that time comes for him to get a shot at starting, a lot of other CFL fans will become a fan quickly.
BERG (2-2): ARBUCKLE COULD PROVE VALUABLE FOR STAMPS
Don’t be mistaken, Nick Arbuckle isn’t going to be seeing a ton of action for the Calgary Stampeders in 2019. When the Stamps brought back Bo Levi Mitchell in February, Arbuckle’s chances of fighting for a starting job were effectively eliminated. That doesn’t mean Arbuckle isn’t one of the most interesting number twos in the CFL coming into the 2019 season.
While Arbuckle was fairly unknown entering 2018, he started establishing himself as the season went along. When it was all said and done, Arbuckle finished with five rushing touchdowns and a passing touchdown as a rookie. Playing behind Mitchell, Arbuckle was used in short yardage and goal line situations and did the job nicely. But I think there’s a chance for that role to be expanded in his second year.
Arbuckle now has a full year under his belt, and with that comes a great deal of familiarity. I’m really curious to see how much more the Stamps use Arbuckle this year as a result. It’s no secret Mitchell is not a fan of running the ball. Now that he’s in the fold longer term in Calgary, I can see Arbuckle used even more in specific situations with the playbook opened up. Both Andrew Buckley and Drew Tate have had significant roles in those situations in recent years.
I also wonder if Arbuckle gets a little more work in “garbage time” scenarios this season. With one full season and two training camps under his belt, you can understand if the Stampeders are more comfortable giving Arbuckle fourth quarter minutes in games that are out of reach. Whether Calgary wants to go down the trade road or not, the more Arbuckle plays, the more of an asset they have…if they choose to use it.
Arbuckle had a great college career at Georgia State and is now finding his way in the professional ranks. I think there’s some real potential, which is why I think his second CFL season is going to be extremely interesting to watch.
DON’T SIT ON THE FENCE!
While both sides are pretty convincing, someone’s got to take it. Whose argument convinced you the most?
You can vote for this week’s winner both on CFL.ca and Twitter. Meanwhile, continue the conversation by tweeting @Fan960Steinberg and @TSN_Marsh.
The winner will be revealed in the following week’s Berg vs. Ferg.
Which young backup has made the biggest statement?