TORONTO - Chad Kelly returns to the Toronto Argonauts' starting lineup with a new perspective.
Kelly watched from the sidelines last week as Cameron Dukes and Bryan Scott took the snaps in Toronto's 31-21 road loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Argos (12-2) could give Dukes and Scott all of the playing time having already cemented top spot in the East Division.
And that allowed Kelly to watch the game much like a coach, which he did often in '21 as the offensive co-ordinator at East Mississippi Community College.
“It was good to kind of take a step back and understand what it means to be a coach,” Kelly said. “Coach puts a lot of effort into making sure guys understand what they're doing and I think I lost a little bit of that one play at a time.
“I was always thinking deep ball, deep ball, big play, big play. Now it brings me back a little bit more to, 'Hey, let's go one play at a time.' We're not looking to hit the home-run ball each play, just do your 1/12th each and every snap.”
That's not to say Kelly's approach before last week wasn't working. He led Toronto to wins in 12 of his 13 starts, having completed 223-of-325 passes (68.6 per cent) for 3,396 yards with 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Dukes got the bulk of the snaps in Winnipeg, completing 17-of-24 passes for 231 yards with an interception. Scott finished 0-for-4 passing.
“I thought both did well for the situation they were in,” Kelly said. “I'm sure they wish they could have a few things back but it's all about learning and understanding that two or three plays could be the deciding factor in a game.
“I was happy about how they went out and handled themselves.”
Toronto enters this week's action second overall in offensive points (29.1 per game) and offensive TDs (45) and third in net offence (368.4 yards).
Also returning this week are linebacker Wynton McManis and defensive tackle Shawn Oakman. Both didn't play against Winnipeg.
Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie said while Kelly will start, he'd also like to give both Dukes and Scott time against Edmonton.
“We'll see if we have to play (Kelly) the full 60,” Dinwiddie said. “I want to get Cam out there again, I feel like he's earned the right to prove to us that we have to get him going a little bit and see what our backup quarterback is all about.
“I thought (Scott) did some good decision-making, things just didn't work out his way. I want to get Bryan out there one more time to get him on the field and give him some experience.”
Canadian Tre Ford will make his eighth start this season for Edmonton (4-11). Ford, 25, of Niagara Falls, Ont., has guided the team to all of its wins and back into playoff contention, although either a loss to Toronto or Saskatchewan Roughriders home win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Saturday would eliminate the Elks.
The six-foot-one, 185-pound Ford has been a dual threat this season. The '21 Hec Crighton Trophy winner while at Waterloo has completed 101-of-144 passes (70.1 per cent) for 1,345 yards with nine TDs and four interceptions while rushing 52 times for 514 yards (9.9-yard average) and three touchdowns.
Ford has registered 12 completions of 30-plus yards while having five runs of 20-plus yards. He ran for a record 135 yards on 11 carries (12.3-yard average) in Edmonton's 35-31 loss to Calgary on Sept. 4, the most rushing yards in a CFL regular-season game by a Canadian quarterback.
“When he gets loose, he can run the ball for large chunks,” Dinwiddie said of Ford. “And a lot of their (big plays) throwing the ball are when defenders come up to stop the run . . . and he finds those windows down the field.
“Dynamic player, we have to make him throw from the dot in the pocket. There's different ways we're going to try to go about it.”
Edmonton's ground attack also includes running back Kevin Brown, the CFL's second-leading rusher with 1,022 yards (6.2-yard average) and four TDs.
“(Brown) is a really good running back,” Dinwiddie said. “I think he's a better running back with Tre in the lineup.”
When facing a multiple-threat quarterback like Ford, McManis said discipline is one key for a defence.
“He's very athletic, a high-motor kid,” McManis said. “For us, we have to do a good job with our rush lanes and as best we can, keep him inside the pocket.
“You have to play him honest but you can't let him use some of his God-given abilities to his advantage. All that being said, I think we have a good gameplan and we're prepared.”
And McManis is happy to be heading back on to the field.
“It's always tough when I'm not out there,” he said. “Watched my guys go out there and compete and fight to the end but I always feel like I can have a direct impact on the game.
“It was hard for me to watch last week.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2023.