Elks’ Chris Jones challenges Canadian QB Tre Ford to ‘play better’ and ‘opportunity will show up’

Photos: Timothy Matwey/3DownNaton. Photo edit: 3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Canadian quarterback Tre Ford has not seen the field so far in 2023 and Edmonton Elks’ general manager and head coach Chris Jones explained his reasoning for that decision.

“He’s a good player and I’m not trying to be a smartass but that’s the facts, I’m not gonna hide from it. He didn’t come back to camp and he didn’t perform as good as he did a year ago,” Jones told the media in Edmonton.

“A year ago, he was behind [Nick] Arbuckle just barely and we gave the start to the more experienced guy and then from there, he got nicked up and it was late until he came back. This year he’s not shown that. He’s shown it in spurts but you’ve gotta do more than what he did during camp in order to get the opportunities.”

Jones selected Ford in the first round, eighth overall during the 2022 CFL Draft. He made his first career start in Week 4 last season, completing 15-of-26 passes for 159 yards with one touchdown and one interception while running six times for 61 yards in a victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The six-foot-one, 185-pound athlete was the first U Sports QB to start and win a regular-season CFL game since 1985.

The native of Niagara Falls, Ont. suffered a shoulder injury the following week in a start against the Calgary Stampeders. He missed two months and returned against the Saskatchewan Roughriders in mid-September in a backup role. Ford made one final start against the B.C. Lions in mid-October after Edmonton had already been eliminated from postseason contention, completing 22-of-36 passes for 242 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions while running the ball eight times for 72 yards.

Taylor Cornelius claimed the starting job in Ford’s absence and received a two-year contract extension through 2024. With the Elks struggling to begin the 2023 season, rookie American Jarret Doege overtook Ford on the depth chart and quickly replaced Cornelius in his first appearance while being given a start in Week 4 as the national QB watched from the sidelines.

“He has to play better. This year he has not played as good as what he did last year. He’s done OK, he’s a little bit inconsistent. He can make every throw. His is more on concentration, I think,” Jones said.

Ford’s elite athleticism caught the attention of CFL and NFL scouts, recording a 4.45-second 40-yard dash, 36-inch vertical, 10-foot, five-inch broad jump, 6.85-second three-cone drill and 4.27-second shuttle during the University at Buffalo pro day in March 2022. He attended rookie mini-camp with the Baltimore Ravens that same year with the New England Patriots and Las Vegas Raiders bringing him in for workouts this past offseason.

“It’s tough. Camp is the time when you get an opportunity to go out and play but again, everything’s a competition, everything’s graded every single day,” Jones said. “If he continues to improve, he continues to be positive, work hard, come and do the things that he needs to do every day, then more than likely his opportunity will show up.”

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.