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September 14, 2021

QB Index: A depth check for a couple of contenders

Photo: The Canadian Press

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 — It was the last thing you wanted to see at BMO Field on Friday night. Ticats’ QB Dane Evans was hit, fell to the turf and immediately grabbed at his leg before being helped off of the field in considerable pain. Coach Orlondo Steinauer confirmed the bad news on Monday, that Evans will miss 4-6 weeks with his lower body injury. This is obviously a major wrinkle in the Ticats’ game plan for the 2021 season.

It wouldn’t be as concerning if Jeremiah Masoli were 100 per cent, but the team’s starting QB out of training camp is still on the mend from a shot to the ribs that he took in Week 2 against Saskatchewan. Add to that the Hamilton offence didn’t look great up to that point and that it had just started to find some rhythm (and wins) when Evans came into the lineup.

The Ticats finished out their disappointing loss to the Argos with David Watford under centre. Steinauer said on Monday that he’d soon name his starter for Friday’s game against Calgary, which means Masoli may still not be healed up yet. Hamilton arguably has the most depth at QB in the league, with Masoli and Evans both all-star calibre players. To potentially be without both of them at the midpoint of the season is a tough pill to swallow.

As this is written, we also don’t know how things will look in Saskatchewan this week, when the Riders host the Argos. Cody Fajardo left Saturday’s Banjo Bowl in the third quarter, with backup Isaac Harker finishing out the game. After winning their first three, the Riders have dropped two straight to the Bombers and risk falling to .500 with a loss to Toronto. Fajardo’s impact on the Riders is substantial and a combination of Harker and former NFL first-rounder Paxton Lynch at QB while interesting, would be a drastic change, which can be a lot for football folk to accept. As Garth Algar famously said in Wayne’s World, we fear change.


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While the Bombers have raced out to a 5-1 start, Zach Collaros is second in the league in passing yards (Photo: The Canadian Press)

ZACH COLLAROS WPG
THIS WEEK: 1 | LAST WEEK: 1

We’ve talked about how Collaros’ numbers don’t overwhelm but through the Bombers’ 5-1 start, Collaros has quietly moved to second in the league in passing yards (just two yards behind Trevor Harris) and has a 3:1 TD to INT ratio. In Saskatchewan on Mark’s Labour Day Weekend, he had a gorgeous TD connection with Nic Demski. In Winnipeg on Saturday he found Kenny Lawler for another highlight reel/dagger touchdown. We’re excited to see what he can do against a tough Elks’ defence this week.

MICHAEL REILLY BC
THIS WEEK: 2 | LAST WEEK: 2

Reilly helped get the Lions off to a perfect start against an Ottawa team that had been blown out a week earlier. Touchdown passes to Keon Hatcher and Jovon Cottoy had the Lions up 14-0 just five minutes into play on Saturday night. With Joel Figueroa back on the offensive line, Reilly had plenty of time to work, was only sacked twice and the results were evident. His 319 passing yards were his second-best total this season and his four touchdowns were a season-high.

BO LEVI MITCHELL CGY
THIS WEEK: 3 | LAST WEEK: –

It wasn’t Mitchell’s prettiest game, going 23-42 for 276 yards, a touchdown and an interception that went back for a touchdown, but it seemed as though he fought through the rust and Edmonton’s defence to get his team a much-needed win in Edmonton. Saturday’s game was that rare one where Mitchell was having issues with timing and finding his targets early — he even heard it from head coach Dave Dickenson at one point — but seemed to come around somewhat in the late stages of the game. His 50-yard TD toss to Kamar Jorden put the game on ice and Stamps fans will hope sets the tone for this weeks’ trip into Hamilton.

CODY FAJARDO SSK
THIS WEEK: 4 | LAST WEEK: 4

Before he left the game on Saturday, it had shaped up to another difficult outing against the Bombers’ defence for Fajardo. He was 11-17 for 169 yards with an interception — his fourth in two games against Winnipeg — before he went to the locker room with the Riders’ team trainer. This isn’t a problem that’s exclusive to Fajardo when it comes to trying to make good against Bombers’ DC Richie Hall. Jeremiah Masoli, McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Jake Maier have all run into it too.

TREVOR HARRIS EDM
THIS WEEK: 5 | LAST WEEK: 3

You’re forgiven if you thought Harris’ excellent Labour Day performance in Calgary marked a turning point for the Elks’ offence. To be fair to him, Harris was under siege in the Labour Day rematch, getting sacked seven times while throwing for 221 yards and an interception. Did anyone think at this point in the year Harris would have a pair of games with zero TDs thrown? Or a pair of games with just one? We go into Week 7 of the season with the Elks’ offence still trying to find consistency.

VERNON ADAMS JR.
THIS WEEK: 6 | LAST WEEK: 5

Adams and the Als return from their bye week with their team under a new challenge, with head coach Khari Jones isolating after testing positive for COVID-19. Jones can prep with the team virtually through this week, but game day will likely be a challenge for the Alouettes. Jones also doubles as the offensive coordinator and is close with Adams. This is a very 2021 wrinkle for a quarterback and offence that seemed to have tapped into something good in its Week 5 win over Ottawa.

NICK ARBUCKLE TOR
THIS WEEK: 7 | LAST WEEK: 7

It was a grind of a game for Arbuckle and the Argos, who were spared overtime thanks to a missed Ticats’ convert. Arbuckle was particularly unhappy with himself for a fourth-quarter interception that gave his opponents life. He gets the chance to bounce back this week in one of the toughest environments in the league in Saskatchewan, against a team that’s dealing with its own issues; a two-game losing streak and a string of injuries.

DOMINIQUE DAVIS OTT
THIS WEEK: 8| LAST WEEK: 10

In the two games he’s played, Davis has at least helped the REDBLACKS’ offence get moving. He’s 53-84 passing for 624 yards with three touchdowns. The downside here is the turnovers. He’s thrown three interceptions in that short span, with two of them going back for touchdowns. With Ottawa on a bye week, Davis could use this time to dig through the film and look at ways to get the turnovers down.

A special shoutout here to Richie Leone, who has made 1-1 passes this year for an eye-popping 206.2 QB efficiency rating.

ISAAC HARKER SSK
THIS WEEK: 9| LAST WEEK: –

The positive that Harker can take from his quarter-and-change of work on Saturday is that he took care of the ball and was accurate with it, making 10-13 passes. Harker’s last full game came on Nov. 2, 2019, when he was 23-28 for 213 yards in a win over Edmonton. He’s yet to throw a touchdown and has three career interceptions since joining the Riders for the 2019 season.

DAVID WATFORD HAM
THIS WEEK: 10| LAST WEEK: –

Watford made 6-10 passes in relief of Evans last week, for 78 yards. Those are fairly pedestrian numbers in a difficult situation. Watford has experience with the Ticats, having played 12 games for them in 2019 and going through most of their training camp this season before being cut, then brought back on Aug. 23. Watford sounds confident in himself and comfortable in his surroundings. Given his history with the team, offensive coordinator Tommy Condell shouldn’t have to simplify or change things up in his playbook too much, if Watford gets the green light on Friday.

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