Ben’s Breakdown: Edmonton’s Tre Ford ran all over Ottawa, but he’s not a running quarterback

Photo: Timothy Matwey/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

He runs a 4.42 forty-yard dash and just torched the Ottawa Redblacks for 74 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, but Tre Ford is not a running quarterback.

To label him as such is to do him a disservice. There’s a negative connotation to the term that suggests the quarterback can only win by running, and Ford has proven that to be untrue. The native of Niagara Falls, Ont. is a quarterback who has experienced success by making good reads, intelligent decisions, and accurate throws. This week, Ford completed 83 percent of his passes for 317 yards and a touchdown.

I didn’t think Tre Ford would be a good CFL quarterback. I thought he had the potential to be, but I also knew the temptation to use him primarily as a runner would be strong. Also, young quarterbacks with good rushing instincts are often their own worst enemy. They make a few big plays with their legs, and suddenly they’re looking to run on every play. This hasn’t happened with Ford.

We’re going to look at Ford’s three best runs from this past week, highlighting how he takes off as a last resort, always looking to pass first.

Play No. 1

On second-and-goal from Ottawa’s eight-yard-line and trailing 1-0 early in the second quarter, Ford dropped back to pass, scrambled to his left, then ran to the front corner of the end zone for a touchdown.

With four down-linemen and Jovan Santos-Knox mugging, Ottawa showed five-man pressure pre-snap, but ended up rushing only three in a boutique cover four-based defence that was likely crafted in a secret lab deep under TD Place specifically to stop Ford. Bryce Carter spied the quarterback, which was bizarre. He’s a defensive lineman! There was also a second spy as linebacker Adam Auclair mirrored Ford from depth.

Ford went calmly through his progressions. After staring down the safety, he checked Dillon Mitchell on the left seam, but Auclair had that covered. He then looked to Steven Dunbar Jr.’s speed out, though Brandin Dandridge had tailed him out to the left sideline.

His third read was Emmanuel Arceneaux’s flat route to his right, and he went as far as pumping the ball that way, but Sherrod Baltimore came crashing down to cut that off. As he stepped up in the pocket and scrambled out to his left, he kept his eyes downfield to see if Gavin Cobb could open himself up along the back line. When he saw Auclair fire at him from depth on a bad angle, he broke to the pylon.

Play No. 2

On first down and leading 7-4 midway through the second quarter with the ball on Edmonton’s 50-yard-line, Ford rolled to his right, scrambled to his left, and took off down the sideline for a 22-yard gain.

The Redblacks lined up in a traditional 4-3 set but rushed only three once again, watching Ford with another double-spy strategy. From the TV angle, I can’t tell with certainty what coverage Ottawa was in. I initially thought it was cover four again, but they could be in quarter, quarter-half, which is essentially split coverage with cover two to the boundary and cover four to the field. Auclair spied Ford once again from depth with 275-pound Mike Wakefield drawing spy responsibility closer to the line of scrimmage.

Edmonton ran a flood concept to the right and as Ford rolled that way, he looked at Geno Lewis’ speed out, but Douglas Coleman split the difference well between him and Steven Dunbar Jr. Ford then looked deep to Dillon Mitchell, but this coverage wasn’t going to allow anything overtop. Ford then checked on Kyran Moore on the backside and saw that while Moore was covered, Brandin Dandridge had tracked him all the way downfield, vacating that entire side. Ford got the angle on Auclair once again and turned on the jets.

Play No. 3

On second-and-five from his own 22-yard-line and leading 10-5 late in the first half, Ford dropped back to pass, then took off down the left sideline for 10 yards.

Ottawa rushed all four defensive linemen with cover three cut in the secondary and middle linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox spying the mobile quarterback.

On the snap, Ford looked left to Steven Dunbar Jr. and Geno Lewis running an Ohio concept, but Brandin Dandridge and Cariel Brooks had the go and the out locked down. Ford then looked back to the trips side to Emmanuel Arceneaux leaking out into the flats but the pocket collapsed, forcing Ford to execute a back door escape.

He looked downfield again after breaking contain, but the coverage was still holding up. As Santos-Knox closed in, Ford pump faked, and the linebacker left his feet, the one thing you can never do as a spy. My favourite part of this play was the sideline microphone picking up an Ottawa coach screaming, “No!” when Santos-Knox jumped.

With his spy in the air, Ford tucked the ball and outran Auclair to the sideline. Two plays later, Ford threw a touchdown pass to Geno Lewis to extend the Elks’ lead.

Edmonton’s recent success is the result of Tre Ford remaining a pass-first quarterback who only uses his legs when all other options are exhausted. If he continues to play high-level football, Edmonton has enough offensive weapons to play with anyone in the CFL.

The Elks (2-9) travel to Calgary (3-9) on Monday looking to draw even with their provincial rivals in the Labour Day Classic.

Ben Grant is the radio colour analyst for the Toronto Argonauts. He has been coaching high school and semi-pro football for 20 years.