Quarterback Index: Silencing the doubters

The CFL.ca Quarterback Index is a weekly power ranking of quarterbacks across the CFL. The ranking reflects recent performance, historical value, statistical indicators, team success and overall on-field evaluation.

TORONTO — Matt Nichols has come to embrace the ‘game manager’ label bestowed upon him throughout much of his professional career.

In 2019, though, a different word to describe the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ starting quarterback would be ‘winner’.

Nichols has the Bombers off to a 5-0 start for the first time since 1960, leading the league in several major passing categories in the process. On Friday night, in a blowout win over the Ottawa REDBLACKS, he even set a franchise record, completing 19 consecutive passes.

Saskatchewan Roughriders QB Cody Fajardo Photo: The Canadian Press

With a 12-1 touchdown to interception ratio and a league-leading 129.1 quarterback rating — tops in the CFL by a country mile — Nichols is asserting himself as the league’s best quarterback six weeks into the season.

There’s plenty of movement among quarterbacks in this week’s index. Trevor Harris is trending downward after a tough performance against the Alouettes, while Vernon Adams Jr. is on the way up after a third straight victory.

Elsewhere, Jonathon Jennings struggled in his first start as an Ottawa REDBLACKCody Fajardo had a big bounceback in the Riders’ win over BC, while Nick Arbuckle made some mistakes in the third start of his career despite getting the victory over the Argos.

CFL.ca ranks the pivots through six weeks of the season:

MATT NICHOLS WPG
THIS WEEK: 1 | LAST WEEK: 2

Matt Nichols is making a masterpiece out of 2019, completing 73 per cent of his passes while averaging 9.1 yards per attempt — both career benchmarks. There’s no doubt the 32-year-old is surrounded by a talented cast in Winnipeg, but his play has been a central reason for the Bombers’ 5-0 start.

TREVOR HARRIS EDM
THIS WEEK: 2 | LAST WEEK: 1

In his first season with the Eskimos, Trevor Harris showed he’s human after all with a sub-par performance against the Alouettes. Harris threw two interceptions while the Esks fell 20-10, dropping them into a second-place tie with the rival Stampeders. Chalk this one up to just one bad game.

MIKE REILLY BC
THIS WEEK: 3 | LAST WEEK: 3

Another gutsy effort for Mike Reilly in Week 6, who overcame four sacks — including three by Charleston Hughes— to average a season-high 8.7 yards per attempt. It wasn’t enough as the Lions fell to the Riders, but the quarterback position is the least of the Lions’ concerns after a 1-5 start.

JEREMIAH MASOLI HAM
THIS WEEK: 4 | LAST WEEK: 4

The reigning East Division Most Outstanding Player is off to a strong start in 2019, leading the Ticats to a 4-1 record while averaging just over 300 passing yards per contest. If the 30-year-old can cut down on the mistakes, there’s a good chance he’ll be in the running for his first ever MOP come season’s end.

VERNON ADAMS JR. MTL
THIS WEEK: 5 | LAST WEEK: 6

You can lock Vernon Adams Jr. in as the Alouettes’ starting quarterback. Adams moved to 3-1 this season as a starter and 6-2 in his career, throwing for 191 yards and a TD in a win over Edmonton. He even caught a major for good measure. Adams has had a re-invigorating presence in Montreal, and it’s been fun to watch.

NICK ARBUCKLE CGY
THIS WEEK: 6 | LAST WEEK: 5

He threw two interceptions and the offence never really got in sync, but Nick Arbuckle did just enough to lead the Stamps to a 26-16 win over the Argos in Week 6. The 25-year-old has shown exciting upside, though Bo Levi Mitchell‘s return is likely getting closer. Enjoy the ride while it lasts.

CODY FAJARDO SSK
THIS WEEK: 7 | LAST WEEK: 9

It’s hard to position Cody Fajardo, who’s had such mixed results throughout his first four starts as a CFL quarterback. But the dual-threat pivot had a nice outing against the Lions, throwing for 278 yards while averaging 12.1 yards per attempt. When he’s on, Fajardo is as dangerous as any quarterback in the CFL.

MCLEOD BETHEL-THOMPSON TOR
THIS WEEK: 8 | LAST WEEK: 8

If it weren’t for the four interceptions, McLeod Bethel-Thompson would have graded well in a loss to the Stamps over the weekend. OK, pretty big if, but the Argos’ quarterback hasn’t exactly looked lost, topping 300 passing yards in each of his three starts in relief of injured starter James Franklin.

JONATHON JENNINGS OTT
THIS WEEK: 9 | LAST WEEK: NOT RANKED

Jonathon Jennings just couldn’t move the offence in his first start as a REDBLACK, completing only six of his 15 passing attempts and generating a meager 12 first downs. Ottawa’s offence converted just three of 20 second down attempts, which isn’t going to cut it in the three-down league.

INJURED: ZACH COLLAROS SSK, ANTONIO PIPKIN MTL, BO LEVI MITCHELL CGY, JAMES FRANKLIN TOR, DOMINIQUE DAVIS OTT

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