Quarterback Nick Arbuckle was on the field Thursday for a light individual drill session and team walkthrough,
However, with the Toronto Argonauts prized free agent signing still nursing a hamstring injury, head coach Ryan Dinwiddie isn’t even close to ready to name his starting QB for Week 1.
“I feel good with all three of our quarterbacks and, to be honest with you, I probably won’t make a decision until the sixth,” the first year bench boss admitted, referencing the day before his team’s season-opener against Calgary in early August.
According to 3DownNation insider Justin Dunk, Arbuckle signed a one-year contract for the 2021 season with the Argos, which could be worth $325,000 and included a $150,000 signing bonus. He has a $109,000 base salary, plus $12,000 in available housing payments and $3,000 per game in playtime incentives.
From the outside looking in, that makes the former Stampeder a clear favourite for the starting job, but incumbent starter McLeod Bethel-Thompson has pushed hard to keep the QB1 spot in camp. With health now a question for Arbuckle, that has made Dinwiddie’s choice all that much tougher.
“With only dressing two quarterbacks, you’ve got to make sure that you feel comfortable the guy’s going to last the whole game and you’re not putting them in harm’s way for future games,” he explained.
“We’ve got 14 this year, to rush a guy back for the first one and then lose them for a long period of time would be foolish on my end. We’ll look at it and see what’s the best fit for the team and the player individually.”
Of course, confidence in the other players plays a key role as well. Bethel-Thompson led the CFL in touchdown passes with 26 against 13 interceptions in 13 starts in 2019, while completing 68 percent of his passes for 4,024 yards.
The six-foot-four, 220-pound QB amassed nine games with at least 300 yards passing and two with over 400 yards last CFL season, but that wasn’t enough to secure the team’s faith in him long-term. According to Dinwiddie, Bethel-Thompson has gotten better this training camp, as has projected third-stringer Antonio Pipkin.
“McLeod took the next step. I thought he’s had a great camp, had a great scrimmage in the last one,” he said. “Pipkin, as well. We’ve got to get some things cleaned up with him, but he’s taken the necessary steps to keep climbing that mountain and getting better.”
With former Clemson University starter Kelly Bryant just recently arriving, the team may elect to keep four quarterbacks around, with two on the practice squad if Arbuckle is healthy enough to start the season.
As for the 27-year old’s full return to the field and the QB competition, that is hard to predict. Arbuckle is close, but Argos fans may need to wait a minute to see just what they have in the young prospect.
“He’s throwing the ball well. He knows what he’s doing,” Dinwiddie stressed. “It’s just a matter of time and getting healthy.”