Paul LaPolice: Redblacks are still trying to determine ‘what the best choice is’ at quarterback

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Recently-acquired quarterback Nick Arbuckle is still the Ottawa Redblacks’ short yardage specialist for the time being, though there seems to be room for him to move up the depth chart.

“As Nick gets more comfortable and he learns more and more, he’ll continue to get a little bit more reps than he did last week. We didn’t really have any practice last week, we had really one day of practice because it was a short week. This week with a full week of practice and an extra day, Nick continues to get reps,” LaPolice told TSN 1200.

“As I told Caleb (Evans) a couple weeks ago, ‘Get in there, get your opportunity to play and make plays, and make sure you control the depth chart, not anybody else.’ Caleb did a good job but we’re also trying to figure out what the best choice is for us to continue to stay on the field and score touchdowns.”

LaPolice indicated that Arbuckle will continue to run the team’s short yardage package and may stay on the field for “a play or two” after the unit converts a first down. Evans has started both games since Jeremiah Masoli underwent surgery on his leg, though LaPolice believes it’s important to keep both quarterbacks engaged, stressing that “you’ve gotta have two guys in this league.”

Arbuckle took the field only once this past week, coming on late in the first half to convert on second-and-one. He caught the defence off-guard by throwing a 47-yard pass to Jaelon Acklin that eventually led to a 13-yard field goal by Lewis Ward.

When asked if he views second-year quarterback Caleb Evans as developing into a legitimate CFL starter, LaPolice sidestepped the question while praising his performance during the team’s 40-33 loss to the Montreal Alouettes.

“That’s a week-to-week thing. We’re talking about a guy who’s played eleven games, right? I think it’s eleven or twelve games and we haven’t won a lot of those games. I don’t want to put that all on him but I was really proud of him at the end of the game (against Montreal),” said LaPolice.

“He was able to get the ball out and was able to really drive us the length of the field and put us in a position to tie the game up. There’s really good growth in Caleb but it’s a week-to-week thing. … If you want to be a starter in this league, you’ve gotta do that week after week and that’s what he has to continue to work on.”

Evans had arguably the best performance of his career against the Alouettes, completing 62.5 percent of his passes for 297 yard and one touchdown. He also ran the ball eight times for 52 yard and two touchdowns.

The CFL’s command centre stopped Thursday’s game between Montreal and Ottawa multiple times in the final minutes to review close calls, drawing the ire of fans in attendance and on social media. One such play was a sack by Alouettes’ defensive tackle Mike Moore that was initially flagged for unnecessary roughness but the command centre overturned.

“Obviously, you want to make sure you can get it right, but you also have to have a consideration of game flow,” said LaPolice. “That’s just something we’ll have to continue to look at and evaluate as we go through the season as a league.”