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Edmonton Elks: Training Camp Day 15 gives players chance to rise above the pack

A week from Saturday, the 2021 version of the Edmonton Elks will have made their final roster cuts for the regular season.

Without any pre-season games to assist in those all-important decisions, the next best event will be Sunday’s scrimmage.

From an evaluation standpoint, head coach Jamie Elizondo says the scrimmage will be extremely important in shaping the roster.

“There’s a lot of jobs on the line, there is great competition in a lot of positions, so I’m looking forward to seeing some separation,” Elizondo said. “See who takes a step forward and who takes a step back when the lights come on, so to speak.”

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The Elks were supposed to have their first scrimmage last Saturday but injury concerns combined with the poor air quality in Edmonton shelved those plans.

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Elizondo says he and the coaching staff have altered the structure of Sunday’s scrimmage somewhat.

There are still some injuries the team is dealing with so the physicality will be dialed back a bit. The starters will get to see limited action, 10-12 snaps, according to Elizondo, and 40-50 for the rest of the group.

The door has opened for some in camp because of injuries to some projected starters.

Take the offensive line, for example, where SirVincent Rogers hasn’t practiced since the middle of the first week and camp. Kyle Saxelid hasn’t seen action in about a week.

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Both started camp at the tackle spots, but since then, it’s opened the door to the likes of Steven Nielsen. The Global player was taken by the Elks second overall in April’s Global Draft.

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There is room for one Global spot on the roster, with some spots open on the team’s practice roster.

Nielsen, who has already attended an NFL camp after college career at Eastern Michigan, has played primarily at right tackle with the starting group and says Sunday will have a game-day feel.

“Of course it does but I think I want to approach it like every other practice,” Nielsen said. “I’ve been practicing really well so far and I want to keep that up. It is more like a game-day so I’m going to step up my tempo a little bit.”

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Veteran defensive tackle Mike Moore currently doesn’t play very much during the scrimmage but says it will be vital to get the game-day routine with no pre-season games.

“You got to get that game-time mindset before the game,” Moore said. “What you are going to do pre-game and before you go on the field. This is going to be very important and we need this.”

Player profile

9 – Mathieu Betts, DL, 6’3, 250 pounds, 26 Laval

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Edmonton Elks DE Mathieu Betts during 2021 training camp on The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium.
Edmonton Elks DE Mathieu Betts during 2021 training camp on The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium. COURTESY: Edmonton Elks

In his first training camp with the Elks, Mathieu Betts has been good. Good enough to earn some high praise from head coach and offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo.

“One of the fundamentals and principles that we want to be based on defensively is our chase and our pursuit. As a team, we want to be around the ball better than any other team, and Betts sets that standard every day. All you have to do is watch practice and that guy is going 100 miles an hour every day.”

The coach pointed out that Betts’ game has also been very consistent through the first two weeks of camp.

“Betts shows up to work every day giving great effort,” Elizondo said.

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The 6 foot 4 inches, 250 pound defensive end from Montreal was selected by the Elks in the CFL Canadian draft third overall in 2019.

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He had already signed as a free agent with the NFL’s Chicago Bears, where he stayed until the final cuts of training camp in September of 2019.

The 26-year-old then came north to join the Double E and played six games, starting once in the back half of the season recording one defensive tackle, two quarterback sacks and one forced fumble.

In his second year, he is excited to work with the veteran defensive ends on the Elks roster.

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“I think we have a really good group of defensive lineman, obviously Kwaku (Boateng) has been here for a while and we have Shawn Lemon who has almost 10 years experience in the CFL,” Betts said. “Iā€™m just trying to learn from these guys. We pride ourselves in being a good D-line but also having a really great group of d-linemen.”

At the start of his career, Betts is just beginning to rack up sacks with two so far. Add in Boateng’s 21 and 70 more from Lemon and the Elks could be in a position to put together a pretty potent rotation of defensive ends for 2021.

Injury notes

After taking a day off on Friday, defensive back Aaron Grymes took full first team reps on Saturday.

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Fellow defensive back Jonathon Mincy was back with the starting defence after missing about a week of action.

Linebacker Brian Walker didn’t practice on Saturday while offensive linemen SirVincent Rogers and Kyle Saxelid along with receiver Tevaun Smith.

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