Toronto Argonauts’ head coach Ryan Dinwiddie likes what he’s seeing in training camp from high-profile rookie quarterback Chad Kelly.
“He’s growing, he’s developing. The CFL game’s different so he’s learning the different nuances,” said Dinwiddie in a recent media availability. “He’s a smart kid, works hard and he’s focused. He wants to have a great career up here and he’s enjoying football each day, so I’ve been pretty impressed with Chad.”
Kelly is the nephew of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, who led the Buffalo Bills to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances in the early 1990s. He was a seventh-round pick of the Denver Broncos in the 2017 NFL Draft but dressed for just one game in his second season with the team. Now 28, he’s looking to master the nuances of three-down football.
“I think the biggest thing is just those 20 seconds (on the play clock),” said Kelly. “We’re able to have a shot clock out at practice so we kinda get used to it when we’re running through plays. It’s a glorified spread offence. We have a lot of field and a lot of guys in motion and you just find the open receiver as fast as you can, get the ball out and let those guys make plays.”
Dinwiddie played quarterback in the CFL for five seasons before entering the coaching ranks and made his first career start in the 2007 Grey Cup in place of an injured Kevin Glenn. He appreciates how hard it is for first-year quarterbacks to be effective in the CFL, though at least one rookie passer posted solid numbers during the 2021 season.
“You look at Jake Maier (in Calgary) last year, he was a rookie but he had good success and handled it. Certain guys do and certain guys it takes until year two. You hope to wait until year two before you have to play him. You don’t want to throw a young guy to the wolves too early,” said Dinwiddie.
“[Kelly] came up early in the off-season, spent some time with me and was always spending time with (quarterbacks) coach (Mike) Miller, so that helped him have a head-start going into it. The kid’s grinding, he wants to be great, so he’s working his butt off.”
The rookie passer feels comfortable in Dinwiddie’s offence, but knows that it’s impossible
“I think everything’s a work in progress. You can never know too much about an offence. Yes, there’s little intricacies that you’re still learning — you’re trying to figure out where a guy’s supposed to be and certain times of the snap, right?” said Kelly.
“It’s the little things. You know the base stuff, you know the concepts, but when you really get down to the nitty and gritty, where are you supposed to be on certain timing plays? Who are you looking at?”
Dinwiddie indicated that all three of the team’s backup quarterbacks — veteran Antonio Pipkin, South Dakota product Austin Simmons, and Kelly — will play in Friday’s preseason game in Ottawa. He has yet to make a decision regarding whether or not incumbent starter McLeod Bethel-Thompson will dress. CFL teams usually do not have veteran starters play in road preseason games, though this is not always the case.
It has been almost two full years since Kelly was released from the Indianapolis Colts in September 2020, which marked the end of his NFL career. He is thoroughly enjoying being back on a professional football field for the first time in a long time and hopes to make the most of the opportunity.
“I’m so blessed just to be back in a locker room and getting to know these guys and the camaraderie. I think the biggest thing is just having fun, man. We’re having so much fun out there, we really are.”