We’re only seven weeks into the season and we’ve already seen the CFL quarterback carousel on a full spin cycle.
Hamilton is onto their third starting pivot while Ottawa is four deep into their quarterback depth chart. The Riders turned to Mason Fine for their Week 7 game vs. BC, which then saw Lions starter Vernon Adams Jr. go down with a knee injury.
And when you consider Edmonton’s decision to start Jarret Doege instead of Taylor Cornelius in Week 4, only Winnipeg, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal have used the same starter all season. This revolving door of quarterbacks has been one of the stories of the early season, even knowing how important depth at the position always is.
Luckily, we got good news on the BC front as TSN’s Farhan Lalji reports Adams didn’t sustain structural or ligament damage on Saturday night and hasn’t been ruled out for week 8 in Edmonton. And even if Adams does have to miss a little time, the Lions can be quite confident in his replacement.
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BC acquired Dane Evans in February to augment their depth after Nathan Rourke’s departure to the NFL. And Evans rewarded that decision with a solid performance after Adams was forced out in the first quarter. Evans finished with 219 passing yards and a touchdown as the Lions moved to 5-1 with a 19-9 win over the Riders.
Fans in BC can be confident in their team if Adams doesn’t return right away, too. Evans is just fine as a second option and has plenty of elite options around him, as we saw on that 53-yard hookup with Keon Hatcher on Saturday. And with how dominant the Lions have been defensively, they rarely ask their offence to win in high flying fashion.
On the other side of Saturday’s West Division matchup was Mason Fine’s first start of the season after Trevor Harris went down vs. Calgary the week prior. The Roughriders struggled to consistently move the ball and failed to truly take advantage of three forced turnovers on defence and special teams. In fact, Saskatchewan turned those turnovers into just six points.
But that wasn’t all on Fine, who finished with a pair of interceptions and no touchdowns to go along with 284 yards passing. I’d be curious to see what Fine can do if the Riders choose to open the playbook a little more in their Week 8 matchup with Toronto. The team was very committed to a run game that struggled vs. the Lions, which might be the catalyst to open things up for Fine a little more next week.
With Bo Levi Mitchell and now Matthew Shiltz on the shelf, the Tiger-Cats turned to 24-year-old Taylor Powell in Friday’s 31-15 loss to Toronto. I liked a good chunk of what I saw from the rookie, despite the result. Powell finished with 282 passing yards in his first professional start while also running for 37 yards and a touchdown in the loss.
I thought Powell showed impressive flashes, especially when able to throw some longer passes in the second half. Powell plays with a little flash and swagger and there’s potential there, especially as he grows into the job a little more.
Finally in Ottawa, Dustin Crum seems to have taken the reins for now. Crum engineered an incredible comeback win over Winnipeg in his first start and had numerous explosive moments in Sunday’s thrilling overtime win in Calgary. With Jeremiah Masoli and Tyrie Adams done for the season and with Nick Arbuckle’s struggles earlier this season, the REDBLACKS are in Crum’s hands for the time being.
We see teams needing to employ multiple quarterbacks every season. But what we’ve seen early this year has been more exaggerated than I can remember in some time. While not ideal for the teams involved, it’s fun seeing how many opportunities can be taken advantage of.
That story is still playing itself out.
A star is (being) born
It’s easy to gloss over Toronto right now because the defending Grey Cup champs have been that good. But in the interest of giving them their due, I think it’s important to spotlight what we’re seeing from quarterback Chad Kelly. One of the biggest unknowns entering the season has looked like a bona fide star through Toronto’s perfect start, and Kelly is showing no signs of slowing down.
Kelly was dynamite once again as the Argonauts moved to 5-0 with their win over Hamilton. Kelly threw just seven incomplete passes vs. the Tiger-Cats and finished with 307 yards and two touchdowns in a near-flawless performance. He also added 18 more yards and another touchdown on the ground.
Everything we’re seeing right now and especially recently, is why head coach Ryan Dinwiddie and general manager Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons were so confident in Kelly taking over after McLeod Bethel-Thompson’s departure. His relief performance in the 109th Grey Cup was no flash in the pan.
Kelly is getting more confident in the passing game and now has back-to-back games over 300 yards. We’re seeing Kelly take more and more confident shots down field and he’s using his talented group of receivers well.
And Kelly’s elusiveness has been on display plenty this season, too. He’s now up to five rushing touchdowns, which gives him an added element making him that much more dangerous.
Toronto has been the class of the league early this season. And what we’re seeing from Kelly in his first year at the helm is a big reason why.