June 10, 2024

Ferguson: Quarterbacks across the CFL balled out in Week 1

Kevin Sousa/CFL.ca

Football is a game built around quarterback play. If you don’t like that, I make no apologies for the basic fact that you can have pretty much anything else, but subpar quarterback play will inevitably sink your season.

With this as a conversational baseline, the question always becomes: “who is going to get the best play out of their pivot?”

What graded my eye more than anything else in Week 1 was the number of positive, near elite in some instances, performances seen by a variety of CFL passers.

While we have to wait until Week 2 to see the Ottawa REDBLACKS new backfield setup with Dru Brown at the controls, the other eight starters gave reason for every team to have hope and, in some cases, be enthralled at the passing potential of your favourite club.

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We begin in Winnipeg on Thursday night where Cody Fajardo returned to a place where he struggled so much as a Riders quarterback to get over the top of the green and white waves of emotion.

As an Alouette, something meaningful has changed in Fajardo’s performances against the Bombers, but to do it in Winnipeg with a mostly clean sheet and 20 completed passes on 28 attempts told me his late-season 2023 surge might just be the beginning. Fajardo had a better completion percentage, more touchdowns and yards than his counterpart, Zach Collaros, who was recently named to top spot on the CFL on TSN top 50 players countdown yet again.

Next up in Calgary on Friday night Jake Maier went head-to-head with his old starter Bo Levi Mitchell as Hamilton came to town hoping to send a message.

While Bo pieced together a positive outing as yardage leader of the first four starters to take the field in 2024 (300 yards) it was Maier who broke the 80% completion mark with a QB efficiency of 132.7 (good for second in the CFL’s kickoff week). Two touchdowns punctuated the effort as Maier held off Bo for his first win of the season and a tone-setting evening for the Stamps’ 2024 season.

Was there ever any doubt the Elks would come out slinging the rock after acquiring McLeod Bethel-Thompson in the off-season? 42 attempts for the veteran huddle leader sent a message all its own, but his accuracy being as sharp as ever was what really caught my eye. Getting up to speed in a short training camp with multiple new faces on the receiving end while battling the ever-efficient Trevor Harris told me Edmonton is going to be present and accounted for well into every game this season, so long as MBT is the one at the controls.

The aforementioned Trevor Harris also crossed the 300-yard mark while using prized off-season acquisition AJ Ouellette to his benefit (18 carries). Harris’ trademark ability to slide seamlessly around the pocket with a quick shoulder turn or snappy check down release made all the difference on a handful of snaps as the Riders are obviously leaning on Harris to protect the football and distribute to all edges of the field with their perceived skill position superiority.

 

To round out the weekend, the Argos quarterback situation was front and centre as the biggest pressure packed question mark of Week 1. All Cameron Dukes did was throw three touchdowns with no interceptions and complete 21 of 27 pass attempts on his way to taking down one of the CFL’s consensus Grey Cup contenders in the BC Lions.

Vernon Adams Jr. was no slouch, but that Argos defensive front and the pressure they were able to apply all game long, especially in the final quarter of play, suggests that losing Corey Mace to Saskatchewan and Chad Kelly for at least half the schedule might not have the sizeable impact we all expected out of the gate.

Across the board, there really weren’t many performances from passers worthy of casting major doubt, throwing the huddle into upheaval or calling into question the months-long organizational buildup to CFL Week 1.

The quarterbacks of 2024 have arrived, they balled out in Week 1 and if history is any indicator, the numbers and highlights will only continue to get better as we roll week-to-week.

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