Duron Carter’s underwhelming debut highlights missed opportunities for Elks against Bombers

Screenshot courtesy: Edmonton Elks

On a night in which the Edmonton Elks failed to get into the endzone at Commonwealth Stadium, one of the most entertaining players to ever set foot on a CFL field made his much-anticipated green and gold debut on the other side of the ball.

After coming off the six-game injured list earlier in the week, former all-star receiver Duron Carter saw a healthy amount of snaps at defensive back in the 24-10 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. It was a return to a role he briefly played under the tutelage of head coach Chris Jones in Regina back in 2017 and 2018, but his debut showed that there are elements of his play that must be cleaned up.

It looked like Carter had the angle on Bombers’ receiver Dalton Schoen on a big catch late in the second quarter and had a chance to prevent six more points from being scored. Instead, Schoen shoved off Carter’s high attempt at a tackle on his way to an 81-yard touchdown reception, giving Winnipeg a 17-6 lead at the break.

The score was a letdown after Edmonton contained Winnipeg for most of the first half and simply should not have happened. The underwhelming effort by Carter on the tackle resulted in considerable mockery on social media, as people poked fun at the pass catcher’s attempt to play defence.

Carter was able to make up for his second-quarter play by picking off a poorly thrown ball from Zach Collaros to stop Winnipeg’s momentum early in the fourth quarter. However, head coach Chris Jones wasn’t offering compliments on Carter’s play, even with the interception.

“He didn’t play great; he needs to get in better shape,” Jones told the media post-game. “I’ve got to do a better job when the guy comes off the six-game, having him physically ready to play”.

Carter also handled return duties, an aspect of the game he’s more familiar with. The Elks badly needed help in that phase and the multi-threat athlete was viewed as someone who could finally jump-start the special teams unit. He managed just 88 yards on six returns with a long of 24.

It will be interesting to see if Carter gets the start coming out of the bye week and how Jones plans to get him better prepared. It was only one game, but the early results left something to be desired.

Of course, Carter wasn’t the only player guilty of a lack of execution. Over on his natural side of the football, the Elks’ offence failed to score a touchdown despite having eight drives of five plays or more.

For receiver Kenny Lawler, who put up 98 yards against his former team, the failure to score majors is a glaring problem.

“We just have to finish. We have to finish the drives, finish the game. If we do that, we put ourselves in a better position,” he said. “Our mood is better, our faces are different in that locker room; we’re in there celebrating. When we don’t do that against the best team in the league, it’s going to be hard to win.”

Getting the ball in the endzone is still the weakest point for the Elks, as they’ve scored just one touchdown at home in 2022. Too many drives have ended in field goals or rouges — when the Elks have scored at all — and Coach Jones was blunt about the team’s inability to get six points.

“You have to stick the ball in the endzone; it’s no secret,” he said. “They’re (Winnipeg) able to scramble around and throw deep and find a way to get in the endzone. They get a turnover and throw a corner route, and are able to get in the endzone. It’s no secret that touchdowns are what we need, and we’ve struggled with that all year, and that’s something we have to get better at also.” 

The upcoming bye gives the Elks time to re-think their strategy in all three phases, as the battle to keep pace with the rest of the West Division continues to become more challenging.

Avry Lewis-McDougall is a freelance sports reporter based out of Edmonton. He's covered six Grey Cups and the Edmonton Football Team since 2009, if there was an official record for youngest CFL reporter, it probably belongs to Avry.