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June 7, 2021

Steinberg’s MMQB: Don’t forget about McLeod

Argonauts.ca

I wanted to show a little love to McLeod Bethel-Thompson after signing back with the Toronto Argonauts last week. He probably won’t be the favorite to win the number one job in training camp next month and likely won’t be the Week 1 starter. But Bethel-Thompson is an asset on any team in this league and an important player to have back in the fold in Toronto.

First off, let’s not forget Bethel-Thompson is coming off a heck of a 2019 season. He led all CFL quarterbacks with 26 passing touchdowns and finished third with 4,024 passing yards. In what was a mostly miserable year for the Argos, Bethel-Thompson was one of the few bright spots.

If newly signed Nick Arbuckle does indeed start the season on top of the depth chart, having Bethel-Thompson on the roster should pay dividends nonetheless. If Arbuckle wins the job out of training camp, he’ll still be a first time CFL starter, which can come with growing pains. Additionally, we know quarterbacks get hurt and the importance of having two trustworthy options is more important now than ever.

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McLeod Bethel-Thompson signed a deal with the Argos last week (Argonauts.ca)

That is all to say: Bethel-Thompson will be ready to go regardless of how. If he wins the job out of training camp, that’s awesome. But Toronto also knows this guy will be a perfect option in the number two slot: ready to step in and execute at a high level if the need arises and the consummate professional otherwise.

Bethel-Thompson is used to not taking things for granted. Since finishing his college career at UCLA and then Sacramento State in 2010, Bethel-Thompson has had stops on ten teams in five leagues. We’re talking about the ultimate journeyman who has mastered the ability to balance being a good teammate with being ready to rip it up when his number is called.

Bethel-Thompson enters training camp in a great spot. He’s a known commodity to that Argonauts’ locker room and has something a lot of other players across the league won’t have: recent playing time. Bethel-Thompson suited up for the Aviators during The Spring League’s 2020 fall schedule and threw for just under 700 yards and five touchdowns in three games.

When the Argos signed Arbuckle in early February, they did so with an eye to the future. Arbuckle is 27 and was coveted by numerous teams after starting seven games with Calgary in 2019. As such, no one will be surprised if he has the leg up going into training camp and starts Week 1 in August.

With Bethel-Thompson, though, Toronto has assured themselves a few things. The Argonauts know they’ll have a couple quarterbacks pushing one another in training camp. They know there’s a good second option if whoever starts Week 1 doesn’t immediately pan out. And Toronto doesn’t have to lose all kinds of sleep if an injury occurs at some point.

Had it not been for a cancelled 2020 season, we’d be talking about a five-year run for Bethel-Thompson and the Argos, by far his longest stint with any team since college. It’s cool to see him back in blue for 2021, because it’s a great fit for both sides.

Changes is good

The CFL is a league rich in tradition, which is part of what makes it great. And when it comes to a winning tradition, it doesn’t get much richer than Edmonton’s green and gold. As such, I was curious to see what the reaction was going to be when they announced their new name. Well, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, and for good reason because they nailed it. Introducing the Edmonton Elks.

It was time to retire the former team name when Edmonton made the announcement last summer. After making that decision, the team went to work on finding a team name that would balance tradition with a new beginning. Instead of rushing it to avoid the mild awkwardness of being called the Football Team, Edmonton engaged their fans and really dug in to the process.

Edmonton president Chris Presson is pictured in front of the new Elks helmets (Edmonton Elks)

I love the logo, I love the antlers on the helmet, I love how it integrates perfectly with team colours, and I love how it carries on the EE legacy. Heck, going with Elks only changes one letter from the former short form name we were accustomed to. And it fits perfectly for an Alberta football team. Does anyone else want to hear an elk call after first downs at Commonwealth or is that just me?

Sometimes change is no fun. In the case of the Edmonton Elks, though, change we needed and it was only a question as to how it was going to be executed. After almost a year of consultation, I think they did an outstanding job.

Immediate impact?

2021 first overall selection Jake Burt has the chance to make an immediate impact with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this season. Now you can add the guy who went right after him to that list. The Saskatchewan Roughriders signed number two overall pick Nelson Lokombo late last week and I’m excited to see how his rookie season pans out.

The defensive back will enter Riders camp with a massive spotlight after spending three seasons down the road at the University of Saskatchewan. And it’s not like they were three run of the mill years, either.

Lokombo played 30 games with the Huskies, racking up 115 tackles, ten interceptions, two sacks, and two forced fumbles. Oh, and his 2019 season was ridiculous. Lokombo won the President’s Trophy as Canada’s top defensive player and was also Canada West Most Outstanding Defensive Player, a Canada West All-Star, and a U SPORTS First Team All-Canadian.

As a natural tight end, how Hamilton uses Burt is going to be interesting. Do they start him as a traditional slot receiver? Or do the Tiger-Cats opt to go a little more innovative and use Burt as a hybrid H-back? That could theoretically see Burt involved in the run game as a blocker and potential ball carrier while also being used in the more traditional tight end roles as part of the passing games. Regardless, though, Burt should have the opportunity to make an impact right away.

Lokombo’s usage probably won’t need to be as creative. The Riders are bringing back defensive backfield mainstays Nick Marshall, Ed Gainey, Loucheiz Purifoy, Mike Edem, and L.J. McCray for 2021, giving them one of the deeper groups anywhere in the league.

As such, Lokombo might have to start this season with special teams work and spot duty in the secondary. But as he gets more professional experience and as injuries and attrition inevitably affect Saskatchewan’s roster, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Lokombo is making a big impact in the second half of this season.

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