Edmonton Elks camp cuts not without surprises as Diggs, Lemon get chopped

Edmonton announced their training camp cuts a day before the Friday, July 30 evening deadline.

Compared to what I remember as a quiet 2018 and 2019, this year had a couple of serious eyebrow-raisers.

Here’s an estimation of where we’re at depth chart-wise as of this writing:

I count 53 active players at the moment, above the maximum 45 this season, which should mean there are eight or nine to have their injury status updated. General manager Brock Sunderland mentioned Oludotun Aketepe, along with Colin Kelly, as being out for the season. Likely the list includes most of the following group:

On current injuries Sunderland didn’t get specific but says they’re players who are 1-2 weeks away from returning. From yesterday, OL SirVincent Rogers, OL Kyle Saxelid, REC Tevaun Smith, LB Brian Walker, DB Jordan Hoover, DB Jermaine Gabriel, and DL Cole Nelson were down, courtesy 630 CHED’s Dave Campbell

We’ll look at the depth chart again this week focusing forward. But now, who’s looking for a new job?

The big shocker

Vontae Diggs. Huge surprise to me. The 2019 Edmonton Rookie of the Year has always been enthusiastic about being here, and being here for the long term. He was definitely a player who fans had already bonded with, despite only being in the city for one season. He didn’t have trouble finding a new team.

It’s even more interesting considering they released the other linebacker with real CFL experience, Kevin Brown, earlier in the week. Sunderland and the coaching staff clearly love what Keishawn Bierria, Nyles Morgan, and Malik Clements bring to the table; they’ve emphasized their respect for Diggs, but felt the new guys played better.

The Elks will hope that they get two Diggses out of the group in 2021.

The smaller shocker

Shawn Lemon. The CFL is a pass-heavy league so it’s a bit surprising they didn’t accommodate his top tier pass rushing ability, as our J.C. Abbott describes:

When Lemon signs his next contract, and he absolutely will sign one, it will be the 16th time he’s changed teams this decade. Pass rushing production is unmatched but inconsistency in the rest of his game has been the knock. That matters a lot less in game than people think.

This isn’t as unexpected as Diggs with how the Elks staff have talked about Mathieu Betts, as well as a couple other younger guys. Now nobody on the line is older than 27, and all four projected starters are 26 or 27 years old.

Edmonton maintains some defensive line depth and ratio flexibility around the roster, and now there’s a clear path to run Betts and Kwaku Boateng as a starting national pair.

Other names you might recognize

36-year-old offensive lineman Thaddeus Coleman was quickly in and out. There were plenty of other tackles he had to fight off, and the Elks have chosen a couple of them instead.

There’s already speculation about Coleman returning to Saskatchewan as an answer to their offensive line injury troubles, though he’s settled in Edmonton and may decide not to travel elsewhere to play.

Defensive back Jordan Beaulieu was with the team for two seasons, but the Elks are going with other young national defensive backs. Most notable among them is 23-year-old Scott Hutter, who has reportedly done well at safety in place of the injured Jermaine Gabriel and Jordan Hoover.

Receiver Kenny Shaw had a big year in 2016, but hasn’t fully been able to catch on since then.

On the practice roster

In addition to keeping two Global players on the main roster, Edmonton has added receiver Diego Viamontes (Mexico), linebacker Maxime Rouyer (France), and defensive lineman Misiona Aiolupotea-Pei (New Zealand) to the practice roster. That’s great to see.

They’re also holding onto a third kicker behind Sean Whyte and Hugh O’Neill in 2020 fifth-round CFL Draft pick Dante Brown. Insurance for this year and maybe a succession plan for 2022.

Aside from that, it’s mostly the usual group of young, not-quite-ready prospects. What’s still curious is Edmonton has four quarterbacks on the main roster. That’s an unusually high number unless something changes before August 7.

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