September 9, 2022

Ferguson: A QB perspective of Labour Day Weekend

Every year I think we might be making too much of Labour Day Weekend across the CFL, and every year it proves me wrong and delivers a great weekend of football.

It’s not the game, league or calendar’s fault, I’m just naturally hesitant to oversell anything, but whether it was watching the Hamilton Tiger-Cats epic intro, Nick Arbuckle and Brandon Banks involving their respective children in the postgame interviews or the high stakes bragging rights drama between the rival provinces of Saskatchewan and Winnipeg. The game simply sells itself on weekends like these.

Pageantry aside, let’s look at the cold hard facts of the quarterback play from the 2022 OK Tire Labour Day Weekend.

» Cauz: What we’ve learned from Argos/Ticats
» QB Index: A familiar face is back in the mix
» Weekly Predictor: Picking the Alouettes

Trevor Harris, Montreal Alouettes

Coming off his best statistical performance of the year in Week 11’s last minute victory over Hamilton, paired with the help of a bye week, I thought Harris would pick apart the Ottawa REDBLACKS. Entering the matchup to kick off Labour Day Weekend, their defence was allowing the highest quarterback efficiency rating in the CFL.

While he still completed a classic Trevor Harris rate of 75 per cent, it was a sack-fumble-touchdown and two interceptions that really gave Ottawa hope as they notched their third win of the season.

Almost all of Ottawa’s points came off Harris turnovers, when that happens the score very rarely goes in your favour.

Nick Arbuckle, Ottawa REDBLACKS

This weekly article is by nature about information and details, but I’m human and happen to have played quarterback in a former life. Which is to say that sometimes the intangible moments on the sideline tell me a hell of a lot more about where a pivot is at with his team.

Nick Arbuckle’s 2022 REDBLACKS experience has been full of late game catch-up duty, slippery footballs popping out of his hands and frustrated reaction shots after incompletions targeting receivers he’s just getting to know.

Friday in Montreal showed us a much more comfortable and willing leader who felt at home in both the pocket and the huddle. A great sign for Ottawa fans as they try to end their home-drought this Saturday.

Cody Fajardo, Saskatchewan Roughriders

While I continue to question Cody Fajardo‘s deep ball process this season, the reality is he completed four of five passes on targets of 20 or more air yards against Winnipeg, with the only incompletion being a hail mary at the end of the game.

The return of receiver Brayden Lenius in concert with Kyran Moore, allows Kian Schaffer-Baker to settle into his more natural role of the Scottie Pippen to Michael Jordan. A role that made the offence feel more varied and difficult to defend over Labour Day Weekend.

If Fajardo gets the legs churning down this stretch of game and makes smart decisions with the football he could be getting more and more praise here each week as the Riders playoff push takes flight.

Zach Collaros, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

I found Zach Collaros’ Labour Day game to be indicative of his 2022 season. Unspectacular, with an absolute assassin mentality in the biggest moments.

A clean sheet on interceptions and two touchdowns certainly helped despite completing just 15 passes in the ball game, but what jumped out to me was the touchdown strike to Dalton Schoen and the calm demeanour in a crazy environment when trailing early.

I can’t help but imagine that if Sara Orlesky had interviewed Collaros at the end of the first quarter and asked about how the Bombers get back into the game, that he would have dead panned the camera winked and said something like, ‘long game.’

He’s that dude and continues to prove it.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Toronto Argonauts

I couldn’t agree more with the CFL on TSN panels assessment of McLeod Bethel-Thompson in the pregame show on Labour Day Monday. When he’s on the Argos can beat anyone and he looks like one of the best quarterbacks in the CFL. When he’s off they can lose to anyone.

While the slippery conditions of a typical misty Hamilton Labour Day didn’t help, it felt like we got a bit of both in his fourth and final regular season game against the Ticats. A stretch that included 205 offensive snaps over five weeks looking at the same uniform on the other side.

The long strike on the Argos first drive to Brandon Banks for a 53-yard completion (49 air yards) was his longest catch with the Argos to date and Bethel-Thompson’s deepest air yard completion since 2019.

Jamie Newman, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Head coach Orlondo Steinauer said it perfectly in the post-game press conference on Monday. Stating that Newman showed flashes, but it just wasn’t good enough. I thought we’d see more of a quarterback run theme to the game, but it’s clear Newman has the arm to justify opening things up downfield for the Hamilton offence.

I thought his deep shot (45 air yards) to Tim White early in the game was as good a throw as I’ve seen at that depth all year, but the weather moved in.

The Ticats offence lost steam and Jalen Morton replaced Newman for some time in the game, which really threw off any chance Newman had of regaining any of that starting quarterback type of confidence to test the Toronto defence.

Jalen Morton, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

This chart is just about what you’d expect from a fourth string quarterback who was thrown into the fire during the biggest Hamilton home game of the year. Not a fair situation for an accurate assessment of Jalen Morton.

Jake Maier, Calgary Stampeders

It really felt like we were carving out a narrative that didn’t exist when questioning if Bo Levi Mitchell would replace Jake Maier to start the second half, but then Dave Dickenson gave it credence in his interview at the break and we watched both warm up enthusiastically.

Here’s the deal, Mitchell  wants badly to play and at some point he’s going to get the chance through spot duty, injury or outright replacement, but for now Maier has control of this offence and is clearly focused on making the best play possible with each snap. The touchdown throw to Reggie Begelton against Enock Makonzo’s coverage was something special.

Taylor Cornelius, Edmonton Elks

Taylor Cornelius is an enigma. Every week he leaves me wanting more through body language, pocket movement and sometimes accuracy. Then you look up at the box score over the past couple weeks and realize he’s playing almost as well as any quarterback in the league and appears to be growing with each start, the only real way to get better in the CFL.

His rolling right touchdown throw to Jalin Marshall was the best throw of his CFL career and it’s not even close. It was a hero ball that quarterbacks dream of completing for months every off-season.

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