Caleb Evans won’t have the element of surprise Wednesday night when the Ottawa Redblacks visit the Toronto Argonauts.
The 23-year-old rookie quarterback was 15-of-22 passing for 191 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 59 yards in leading Ottawa to a 34-24 win over the Edmonton Elks in his CFL debut last week. He’ll make a second straight start when the Redblacks (2-5) face Toronto (4-3) at BMO Field.
Chris Jones, Toronto’s new defensive consultant, will have had the benefit of game film from the Edmonton win help in his preparation, not to mention time as the Argos are coming off the bye week. Jones has a well-earned reputation of being a defensive guru over his time in Canada as a head coach, defensive co-ordinator or position coach.
“He [Jones] has always given quarterbacks fits each week,” Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie said. “He [Evans] can create plays with his legs, which you’ve got to be able to do at this level especially in this league … he can throw it, too.
“We’ve got to disguise some looks … where he thinks a certain coverage is there and we roll into something different.”
With veterans Matt Nichols (shoulder) and Dominique Davis (hamstring) both ailing, Ottawa head coach Paul LaPolice had to choose between Evans and fellow rookie Taryn Christion as his starter against Edmonton. He opted for Evans because he felt the former Louisiana-Monroe star performed better during training camp.
Christion will again serve as Evans’s backup.
With CFL teams not playing any exhibition games this year, Evans was an unknown commodity when he took to the field against Edmonton. However, Toronto will have more than Evans to deal with as speedy DeVonte Dedmon has registered punt-return TDs in the Redblacks’ past two contests.
Veteran McLeod Bethel-Thompson will make a second straight start for Toronto, which is unbeaten at home (3-0). Bethel-Thompson completed 13-of-19 passes for 210 yards and two TDs in the Argos’ 30-27 win over Montreal on Sept. 24.
Montreal did roll up more than 550 yards offensively, including 178 yards rushing. But Toronto’s defence forced three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble recovery), and the Argos were flagged just five times for 45 yards while the Alouettes took 11 penalties for 129 yards.
Edmonton Elks versus Winnipeg Blue Bombers (Friday night)
At Winnipeg, Trevor Harris has come off the six-game injured list (neck) and is expected to start for Edmonton (2-5). The bad news for the Elks – who’ve lost two straight – is their offence will face a defence that’s allowing a league-low 13.4 offensive points each game. What’s more, the Blue Bombers (7-1) have won four straight and are unbeaten both at home (4-0) and within the West Division (4-0). And the defending Grey Cup champions are a whopping plus-14 in turnover ratio while the Elks are a league-worst minus-13.
Calgary Stampeders versus Saskatchewan Roughriders (Saturday night)
At Regina, it’s the second of three meetings this year between the two West Division rivals. Calgary (3-5) claimed a 23-17 home victory Saturday with veteran Bo Levi Mitchell throwing two TD strikes. Cody Fajardo threw for 269 yards but had no touchdowns and an interception. However, the Riders (5-3) are a solid 4-1 at home while the Stampeders are 1-2 on the road. New Riders receiver D’haquille (Duke) Williams won’t play as he’s completing his COVID-19 quarantine.
Ottawa Redblacks versus Montreal Alouettes (Monday afternoon)
At Montreal, the Alouettes (3-4) look to register a second straight win after their come-from-behind 23-20 overtime decision in Hamilton on Saturday. The squad showed resiliency in rallying from a 17-3 fourth-quarter deficit. Canadian linebacker Chris Ackie was big with a fumble recovery and key sack defensively. And another huge benefit for the home team is, unlike Ottawa, it won’t be playing for the second time in a five-day span.
Toronto Argonauts versus Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Monday afternoon)
At Hamilton, the Ticats (4-4) look to resume their winning ways at Tim Hortons Field after having their 11-game win streak there halted by Montreal. Jeremiah Masoli was 23-of-33 passing for 223 yards in his first start for the Ticats since suffering a rib injury in a 30-8 loss to Saskatchewan on Aug. 14. Fatigue shouldn’t be as big a factor for the home team as it might be with Toronto, which will be playing for the second time in five days.
Last week: 1-3.
Over all: 14-20.