March 18, 2024

MMQB: Analyzing all nine teams at quarterback

Jamie Douglas/CFL.ca

Every once in a while, we have to focus the Monday Morning Quarterback on the position in the name. And, knowing the quarterback carousel has been spinning since before free agency opened in February, now seems like a good time.

With less than two months from training camps opening, where do things stand? How did each team fare at the sport’s most important position?

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Montreal Alouettes: Redeemed!

Cody Fajardo proved a lot of people wrong in 2023 and now he’s a Grey Cup champion and MVP. Fajardo was exactly what the Als needed last season. He was steady, reliable, and explosive when he needed to be. That’s why he earned an extension through 2025 shortly after the team’s win in the 110th Grey Cup.

Having Caleb Evans back for another year is big for Montreal, too. Evans gives Montreal a solid backup option with plenty of recent game action; he has 434 pass attempts under his belt over the last three seasons with the Alouettes and REDBLACKS.

Ottawa REDBLACKS: Dru’s time

Ottawa’s acquisition and subsequent signing of Dru Brown was one of the biggest moves of the off-season. Now we get to see Brown go to work as a starter for the first time. After three years in Winnipeg, all signs point to Brown being ready to lead his own team and the REDBLACKS were the team to step up and make that happen.

Saying all that, Ottawa enters 2024 as deep as they come at quarterback. Jeremiah Masoli has restructured his contract. Tyrie Adams, who showed promise last year, is back for Year 3 with the REDBLACKS and Dustin Crum, who was electric at times as a rookie in 2023, is part of the equation, too.

Edmonton Elks: A great dilemma to have

For a team desperate to get back to the playoffs, having a couple promising quarterback options is a good thing. Edmonton made waves when they signed McLeod Bethel-Thompson in early January, bringing him back to Canadian football after a year away. Bethel-Thompson will start the season on top of the depth chart and gives the Elks a proven presence under centre.

Then there’s Tre Ford, who helped get the Elks back on track last season after an 0-9 start. Ford threw for more than 2,000 yards and 12 touchdowns upon taking over as the starter in Week 10. Ford also racked up 66 rushing attempts, many of them of the highlight reel variety; he finished with 622 rushing yards and three touchdowns. If and when called upon, Edmonton can be confident that Ford will step in and get the job done.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers: Party like it’s 2019

With change at QB behind Zach Collaros, the Blue Bombers brought a familiar and popular face back, in signing Chris Streveler (The Canadian Press)

There’s no uncertainty at the top of Winnipeg’s depth chart as two-time Most Outstanding Player Zach Collaros remains one of the league’s elite. The Bombers knew they weren’t going to be able to retain Brown and also said goodbye to short yardage dynamo Dakota Prukop. So, they came up with a pretty darn good contingency plan.

Winnipeg signed Chris Streveler in late January, bringing back one of the most popular members of their 2019 Grey Cup win after three seasons in the NFL. Streveler presents plenty of options for the Blue Bombers and it’s going to be fun to see how they work him into the offence with Collaros.

Toronto Argonauts: A familiar group

The Argos are set to run it back at quarterback, with Chad Kelly as the reigning MOP. Back with Kelly are last year’s understudies in Bryan Scott and Cameron Dukes. It was the latter who saw more substantial playing time last season; Dukes spent last season as the primary backup and threw for 760 yards and two touchdowns on 96 attempts.

Calgary Stampeders: Getting deeper

The Stamps are still believers in Jake Maier after his first year as a full-time starter saw him lead the league with 578 pass attempts. What’ll be key for Maier and Calgary’s offence will be a little more explosiveness in the passing game and I’m curious if and how they make that happen.

One thing the Stampeders didn’t have last year, though, is a veteran safety net behind Maier. That’ll be different in 2024 after Calgary signed Matthew Shiltz to a one-year deal in free agency. The 31-year-old will give the Stamps strong stability after seeing plenty of action and throwing for more than 1,500 yards with Hamilton last season.

BC Lions: Here come the reinforcements

 

Last year saw Vernon Adams Jr. solidify himself as one of the CFL’s best and most explosive quarterbacks. With BC’s electric receiving corps coming back largely intact, I don’t see anything changing with Adams this season. He remains one of the league’s top tier pivots.

Behind Adams you can’t help but like how deep the Lions look at the position…and that’s with the off-season retirement of Dane Evans. BC got instantly better in the short yardage game with the signing of Prukop. Fellow free agent addition Jake Dolegala brings plenty of recent game action experience after starting Saskatchewan’s final 10 games last season.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats: Take two

Even with the departure of Shiltz, Hamilton’s quarterback situation looks very similar for the coming season. Bo Levi Mitchell has restructured his contract, which was a necessary move allowing him to fight for the starting job in his second year with the Ticats. Mitchell never really got off the ground in his first season with Hamilton, due in large part to injuries.

But let’s not forget about Taylor Powell in this conversation. As a rookie in 2023, Powell showed a ton of promise in multiple starts. Powell possesses a strong arm and isn’t afraid to take deep shots down the field. Natural growth from Year 1 to Year 2 should serve him well.

Saskatchewan Roughriders: Lots left in the tank

Trevor Harris was off to a nice start to his Riders career before sustaining a season-ending knee injury in Week 6. With what we saw from Harris prior to the injury, though, there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic in Year 2. Harris, who turns 38 in late May, is still a very accurate passer and I’m excited to see him in charge of this new look Saskatchewan offence.

Also back for another season with the Roughriders are Mason Fine and Antonio Pipkin. The former has started six games over the last two seasons, while Pipkin has developed into one of the CFL’s best short yardage specialists in recent years.

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