Edmonton Elks sign assistant coach Noel Thorpe to contract extension

The 2021 CFL season has yet to start but the Edmonton Elks have seen enough of Noel Thorpe’s work. The Elks’ assistant head coach, defensive co-ordinator and defensive backs coach signed a contract extension with the team on Friday which will take him to the end of the 2022 CFL season.

“Being here and continuing my stay, obviously with family we consider Edmonton our home now,” Thorpe said. “Great opportunity to continue my coaching career and to solidify our future here.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for this organization, the people in the building and this community.”

Thorpe first took the job back in January of 2020 when Scott Milan was named Edmonton’s head coach a month earlier. Then, in March, the COVID-19 pandemic hit which ended up wiping out the 2020 CFL season. Thorpe was retained under Jamie Elizondo when the Elks named him head coach in February.

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Elizondo said he and team general manager Brock Sunderland felt that even though it’s only been weeks since training camp started, a contract extension for Thorpe was well-deserved.

“He and I are tight with ideas and philosophies, and just pointing out things we need to do, so I’m thrilled,” Elizondo said.

“I think Noel and I have good chemistry.”

Read more: Edmonton Elks Training Camp Day 3: Secondary loaded with experience

Elks defensive back Jonathon Rose knows Thorpe well. The two were with the Ottawa Redblacks in the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

Rose said as DB, Thorpe’s aggressive style of defence from the front seven causes bad decisions when opposing quarterbacks are flushed from the pocket and make throws under pressure, giving the secondary the chance to make a significant play. Thorpe’s energetic demeanor during practice and games translates on the field and Rose said it’s infectious.

“Every defence in the CFL must be aggressive, and if you’re not, then you’re probably not one of the top defences,” Rose said. “I feel like with his energy we’re always going to be that dominant regardless of the play call.

“We could be in zone and we will be the best, physical zone team. He always has that physicality mentality when he attacks anything and everything.”

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Signing Thorpe to an extension before the first ball is kicked off on Aug. 7 against the Ottawa Redbacks might be seen by some as putting the cart before the horse. Thorpe said it’s really all about helping to establish expectations and the team’s identity now and going forward.

“I think it’s all about setting an identity of who he want to be and going out on the field and executing it,” Thorpe said. “We’re going to be a defence that’s built on physicality and our ability to run to the football.

“I think what we’ve seen over the last two weeks is a learning curve has not only gone schematically in our installation, but that identity we’ve built is showing up on the field.”

Audibles

Listen below: Edmonton Elks head coach Jamie Elizondo gives his assessment of the first two weeks of training camp.

Player Profile

The ball slips through the hands of BC Lions defensive back Anthony Orange (26) straight into the hands of Hamilton Tiger-Cats wide receiver Mike Jones (12) during first half CFL Football game action in Hamilton, Ont. on Saturday, September 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

12 Mike Jones REC 6’0 181 pounds Southern

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The Edmonton Elks signed Mike Jones back in January with the hopes he could solidify a spot in the receiving core as a Canadian. So far in training camp, the player from Bryan, Texas has found a home as the wide-side wide receiver in Elizondo’s offence. Hold on a minute, a Texas player being classified as a Canadian? It’s a quirk we have seen time and time again with the CFL ratio rules of what qualifies an American player as a Canadian. So what is Jones’ story?

“I was born in Toronto, my mom is from Toronto, and my dad is from the U.S.,” Jones said.

“My parents met at Michigan State and my mom’s family doctor was in Toronto, so she came up and had me. Then she went back to school in Michigan and never came back to Canada.”

Jones said the Elks were on his radar before the pandemic shut the 2020 CFL season down and when teams started signing free agents, it didn’t take long for him and the Elks to come to an agreement.

Jones will be entering his fifth CFL season after spending his first four years with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Jones’ career-high for receiving yards happened in the 2018 season when he recorded 841 yards. His production dropped in 2019 to 319 yards with the likes of Brandon Banks and Bralon Addison getting most of the attention. Jones looks to have one of two open Canadian spots in the Elks’ receiving core but he will contribute anywhere he can.

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“That’s very exciting, but at the same time, I’m a team guy, so whatever coach needs me to do,” Jones said.

“If he tells me to go on kickoff, I’ll do it. If he tells me to go make plays on offence, then I’m going to do it. Anything he asks me to do would excite me, not just making plays on offence.”

Like riding a bike

After mostly observing since clearing quarantine on Monday, receiver Derel Walker fully participated on Friday with the first team offence much to the delight of Elizondo.

“I’m not going to lie, he looked pretty good,” the coach said.

Read more: Who are the Edmonton Elks All-Time All-Stars?

Defensive backs Jermaine Gabriel and Rose, along with defensive tackle Jake Ceresna, returned to the field after missing about a week of action. Players remaining out were offensive lineman SirVincent Rogers and Kyle Saxelid along with receiver Tevaun Smith and defensive end Shawn Lemon. Defensive back Aaron Grymes was an observer for the first time in camp on Friday nursing some minor ailments.

The Elks are back on The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday morning. On Sunday, the team will hold their one and only scrimmage of training camp.

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