The brightest light on the Edmonton Elks’ roster — and some would argue the biggest catalyst in all four of their wins in 2023 — isn’t a lock to start at quarterback next year, their head coach said Monday.
While Tre Ford came in as starting quarterback after the Canadian Football League team started the season 0-8 and lead them to a 4-14 record, Chris Jones said the second-year CFLer will “have to come back, compete for a job just like everybody else.”
“He’ll come in as our No. 1, but Taylor Cornelius is a good player also,” Jones, also the Elks’ general manager and defensive co-ordinator, told media on Monday at Commonwealth Stadium as players and staff wrapped up their season following a 45-25 loss to the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg on Saturday. “Everything’s a competition in pro football, and it’ll be square one when we come back Day 1.”
The Elks, who are on a bye this week for the CFL’s final slate of games before the playoffs, will finish last in the West Division for the third season in a row.
Following an abbreviated 2022 campaign thanks to an injury, Ford came out of training camp as the Elks’ third-string quarterback behind Cornelius and now-departed backup Kai Locksley. Cornelius, who signed a contract extension with Edmonton last fall worth a reported $400,000 per season through 2024, struggled to make reads and find receivers, while former practice roster player Jarret Doege didn’t fare much better in his lone start.
Jones finally handed the ball to Ford for a Week 10 matchup against Winnipeg that, while still a 38-29 loss, saw the Elks lead most of the game, with Ford completing 75 per cent of his passes, throwing one touchdown (and an interception) and rushing for another.
Ford, a threat on the run — sometimes when he’s unable to find an open receiver — then led the Elks to wins in four of their next five games.
“He showed the dynamic ability that he can do some things that no other guy in the league can do,” Jones said of Ford, who passed for 2,069 yards and 12 touchdowns in 10 games while adding 622 yards rushing and three TDs on the ground. “Once he grows into the position, I think he’s going to be a very good quarterback.”
Ford said Monday he expects to compete next spring in camp to keep the job as starting QB, adding while it’s “nice” to hear he’ll be pegged as the Elks’ No. 1 signal-caller, he’ll approach it as though he needs to prove himself again.
“I prepared coming in this year like I was going to win the starting job in Week 1,” Ford said. “I’m always going to prepare just to be the starter regardless if I’m the starter or not. I feel like that’s the best way to prepare, and that way, you don’t get caught laughing when your name is called.”
Top receiver Eugene Lewis said Ford “absolutely” gave the Elks “a spark.”
“He made a lot of great plays,” said Lewis, the Elks’ big name signing last off-season who led Edmonton with 844 yards receiving in 12 games played. “There are also things that Trey’s got to work on, has to work on as a quarterback, and that’s just him getting experience.”
Ford says he knows he has to work on his game by getting better timing with his receivers, “hitting them in the right windows.”
“It’s going to take away from that scrambling that I’ve been doing and not taking those sacks. I’ve got to throw the ball away as well,” he said.
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