The QB Index is a weekly power ranking of quarterbacks across the CFL. The ranking reflects recent performance, historical value, statistical indicators, team success and overall on-field evaluation.
TORONTO — The first week of the CFL season carried its share of drama and surprises and the most important position on the field wasn’t exempt from that.
This season’s first edition of the QB Index features some familiar names a little lower than we’re used to seeing them. Their health plays a big factor in that.
Neither Michael Reilly nor Matt Nichols looked like themselves in Week 1. Reilly’s elbow injury kept him out of the first half of the Lions’ eventual loss to the Roughriders and while Nichols made it through the REDBLACKS’ defensive slugfest with the Elks, he didn’t look to have the arm strength he’s shown through his CFL career.
Reilly’s last-minute decision to sit opened the door for rookie QB Nathan Rourke. The Canadian pivot went into just about the most difficult situation any player in his position could, in a hostile, loud environment at Mosaic Stadium against a very good team. It’s no surprise that the Riders ran out to the early first-half lead that they did.
To Rourke’s credit, he started to find his way late in the second quarter, then again in the fourth, when Reilly wasn’t able to finish the game. It was a wild ride, but Rourke showed himself to be an intriguing prospect that could see more action on Thursday night when the Lions travel to Calgary to face the Stamps.
In the other Week 1 games, Zach Collaros looked very solid in the Bombers’ win over the Ticats. His numbers won’t blow you away — he made 64 per cent of his passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns — but it felt like he had control of the game the entire night. Jeremiah Masoli got off to a great start (14-18 passing, 155 yards, one TD, one INT in the first half) but was stymied by the Blue Bombers’ defence in the second half.
In Calgary, McLeod Bethel-Thompson looked every bit a starter in a poised performance that led the Argos to a tough and rare win at McMahon Stadium, while Bo Levi Mitchell had a rare turnover in crunch time with the game on the line.
In Edmonton, Trevor Harris and his high-powered offence put up 443 yards, but couldn’t find the end zone and dropped a game to an Ottawa team that mustered up 127 yards of offence on the night.
Week 2 brings us the debut of the Alouettes and Vernon Adams Jr., as they head into Commonwealth to face an Edmonton team that will be hungry to find its offensive finish. It’s the smallest of sample sizes, but enjoy our first edition of the QB Index.
BO LEVI MITCHELL CGY
THIS WEEK: 1 | LAST WEEK —
For stretches in Calgary’s game against the Argos, Mitchell looked like he was picking up where he’s left off every season before this one, finding his exceptionally talented receivers for big gains and points on the board. Then there were stretches where the familiar faces like Kamar Jorden and Markeith Ambles weren’t in and the chemistry seemed to take a hit. These rankings take historical value into account and we think Mitchell and the Stamps will find their way as they go forward.
CODY FAJARDO SSK
THIS WEEK: 2 | LAST WEEK —
Fajardo said that he felt a little off track in the second half of the Riders’ eventual win over the Lions, but football teams don’t often continue to rack up 32-point halves against their opponents; video game scenarios excluded. The productivity wasn’t there in the second half like it was in the first but man, that first half was a powerful explosion for the Riders, wasn’t it? Fajardo still finished 28-35 for 230 yards and a pair of touchdowns to an interception. That’s a solid start to a season in our books.
MICHAEL REILLY BC
THIS WEEK: 3 | LAST WEEK —
We mentioned that history plays a part in these rankings and probably more so when we’re this early in the season. We all know what a healthy Reilly can do and even when he was clearly not 100 per cent, he helped will his team back into a game that had spiraled out of control on them. The passes didn’t have the same zip on them, but Reilly got things moving when he came into the game. A positive from that loss: BC’s o-line protected its QBs in Week 1, allowing just two sacks.
ZACH COLLAROS WPG
THIS WEEK: 4 | LAST WEEK —
Collaros showed glimpses of this kind of play through the Bombers’ Grey Cup run in 2019. Thursday night felt like he dove back into the best days of his career. We mentioned up top the sense of control Collaros had on the field. If he can keep that elusiveness to his game and keep d-linemen running after him while he’s sizing up his options downfield, it’ll be a fun and successful year in Winnipeg.
TREVOR HARRIS EDM
THIS WEEK: 5 | LAST WEEK —
It had to be a frustrating night for Harris, who had his offence all over the field all night and couldn’t break the plane, despite a wealth of options at his disposal to get there. If you’d asked anyone a week ago to pick a Week 1 team that would be held out of the end zone, the Elks would likely have been at the bottom of that list. There’s too much talent there, starting with Harris, for this to become a trend.
VERNON ADAMS JR. MTL
THIS WEEK: 6 | LAST WEEK —
Adams enters into his first full season as the Alouettes’ starter and appears poised to take the next step in his journey as a QB. The Elks’ defence is a stout one, though, so Adams and head coach Khari Jones might need their full bag of tricks this week.
JEREMIAH MASOLI HAM
THIS WEEK: 7 | LAST WEEK —
The Ticats get to take a turn in that tough environment at Mosaic Stadium this week. Hamilton’s offence shrunk in the second half, but similar to the Edmonton situation, there’s too much talent and experience for that to extend for long stretches. That first-half version of Masoli will be looking to stick around longer this week.
MCLEOD BETHEL-THOMPSON TOR
THIS WEEK: 8 | LAST WEEK —
A backup and sometimes last-resort for the Argos over the last few years, this feels like a golden opportunity for Bethel-Thompson, who put an excellent game together in Calgary. He was poised in the fourth quarter, erasing an eight-point deficit and for the record, out-dueled Mitchell down the stretch. If he can do it consistently — if he gets the chance to do it consistently, given Nick Arbuckle‘s health — the Argos could have an interesting situation to consider.
MATT NICHOLS OTT
THIS WEEK: 9 | LAST WEEK —
Nichols doesn’t seem himself and the numbers from Week 1 tell you that much. Throwing for 71 yards with zero touchdowns (and zero interceptions, to Nichols’ credit) isn’t going to be enough for a win in most situations. Nichols knows that. Ottawa’s bye week may be coming at the perfect time. If a week is enough time to let him rest his arm we might be able to get a more complete picture of what Ottawa’s offence is capable of.
NATHAN ROURKE BC
THIS WEEK: 10 | LAST WEEK —
Rourke lands at the end of this list through no fault of his own. It was never the plan to throw a rookie quarterback into the fray in Regina and what happened in his first few trips out on to the field is the predictable outcome for anyone in that situation 99.999 per cent of the time. His touchdown passes to Lucky Whitehead and Bryan Burnham showed he has the necessary unflappability to play at this level. Expect more ups and downs if Rourke does get the start this week in Calgary.