- Diversity is Strength
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 — As each game unfolded through Mark’s Labour Day Weekend, you could almost feel the tectonic plates of the CFL shifting underneath your feet.
In Ottawa, it was Vernon Adams Jr. getting his swagger back in an Alouettes win over the REDBLACKS. In Saskatchewan, it was Zach Collaros throwing daggers against the Riders, while Cody Fajardo was swallowed up in Winnipeg’s defensive pressure. In Hamilton, Dane Evans helped take the Ticats back to their 2019 selves. In Calgary, Trevor Harris seemed to have had his ah-ha moment with his offensive teammates.
We may not know exactly what some teams are yet but we’re getting a sense of the quarterbacks, who are starting to connect with their teammates. The aftershock of a very interesting Mark’s Labour Day Weekend has resulted in the shuffling of some names in our QB Index.
Collaros doesn’t go out and hit you with monstrous numbers — his season-best is a 292-yard effort in the Bombers’ Week 2 win over Toronto — but he’s got a knack for hitting the opposition with a backbreaker of a play when the moment is there. His 27-yard TD pass to Nic Demski put the game out of reach on Saturday. The Damian Lillard-like goodbye wave to his former team after tossing that touchdown was one of the greatest and maybe coldest moments of a great weekend of football.
Rested and prepared, Reilly and the Lions have an excellent chance to get above .500 this week with the REDBLACKS making the cross-country trip. Reilly put 301 yards on Ottawa before the Lions went on their bye week. If BC’s o-line is a little healthier, there’s opportunity to do more against an Ottawa defence that broke against Montreal last week.
We’ve waited through an off-season, through an ongoing pandemic and another off-season before we got to see the Edmonton Elks’ offence take the field. Five weeks into this season, we finally saw what we were hoping for. Harris was like a composer at the podium on Monday in Calgary, seamlessly working in the plethora of options around him. Harris found seven different targets on Labour Day and let James Wilder Jr. continue to play wrecking ball on the ground. Here’s hoping this is the start of many more games like this from Edmonton’s offence.
The Bombers spent the weekend in Saskatchewan and left some adversity behind them for Fajardo and the Riders to deal with. Fajardo threw three picks and to the astonishment of everyone watching — himself included — managed to bounce a ball off the crossbar of the upright again. That wasn’t the only similarity to the 2019 Western Final. The Riders were held out of the end zone on Sunday, just like they were almost two years ago with a trip to the Grey Cup up for grabs. The challenge for Fajardo this week: Bounce back in a tough environment.
Showered with encouragement from players, fans and media around the league over the past week, Adams was thankful and emotional in the wake of his strong showing (18-23 passing, 288 yards, four touchdowns) against Ottawa on Friday night. The REDBLACKS haven’t been winning this season, but their defence, up until this past week, was limiting offences and giving them a chance to win each week. Montreal’s 51 points are a league-best this season and should be enough to give Adams and his teammates the confidence they need to stay in a competitive East Division this season.
After a good showing in his debut against Montreal, Evans made a significant jump a week later in the Labour Day Classic, making 21-29 passes for 248 yards and a pair of touchdowns. With Evans at the helm, this Ticats team looked like the one that ran the table at home in 2019. That’s not all attributable to the quarterback, but the offence followed Evans’ cool demeanour and energy to win their home opener and find its stride at a crucial time. After their trip up the QEW to Toronto this week, the Ticats are at home for three of their next four, too. That should bode well for Evans and his teammates.
In the same way that people may be critical of Cody Fajardo for his play against the Bombers, let’s not forget that Arbuckle was up against a fully charged up defence this past week. Hamilton’s defence limited Arbuckle, who may have his ups and downs in his first year as a full-time starter. He adjusted well week-to-week in his games against Winnipeg earlier this season. We’re confident that he’ll do the same ahead of the Argos’ rematch against the Ticats at BMO Field.
Maier didn’t play poorly in Calgary’s Labour Day loss, making 29 of 46 passes for 328 yards and a touchdown, with zero interceptions. It was his third-straight 300-plus-yard game and he’s taken remarkably good care of the ball in that stretch, with just those two interceptions that came in the first half of his debut. Calgary’s record isn’t where they want it to be, but the organization should feel good about its QB depth as Bo Levi Mitchell works toward his return.
This isn’t the first time that McBeth has been in this situation, playing under the waving white flag of his team, that’s opted to call it a day for their starter. This also isn’t the first time that he’s gone out and played some productive downs and put points on the board against an opponent in a lopsided game. Bethel-Thompson has his supporters and they’ll always argue that he’s so infrequently given a proper opportunity and situation that it’s difficult to get a true sense of how impactful a QB he could be. They could be right. We’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating: The Arbuckle-McBeth tandem and storyline is one that could be with us all season in Toronto.
Davis came in and provided Ottawa perhaps the lone bright spot in what was otherwise the team’s low point, four games into the season. The loss was ugly, but for Davis and the offence to see their work rewarded with points on the board is a much-needed morale boost for a club that might be hanging its head and dragging its feet after this rough start. The message in Ottawa will likely be that this is a new week with new opponents and challenges. It seems like it’ll also be a week with a new starter at QB and a significant opportunity for the 32-year-old that has played backup for the last five CFL seasons.
After working the REDBLACKS game in Ottawa, TSN’s Matt Dunigan said that he believed that Nichols wasn’t in any way close to fully healthy. He was just 2-5 and had an interception against the Als before coach Paul LaPolice sat him for the night, opting to go with Davis. If there’s some sideline time in Nichols’ future, it might help him heal physically and could let him see the game differently. Ottawa still has 11 games to play and a lot can happen between now and then. Nichols’ story isn’t fully written yet.