With final roster cuts made, Edmonton Elks focus on Week 1

Edmonton Elks head coach Chris Jones on the field against the Calgary Stampeders during first half CFL pre season action in Edmonton, Friday, June 3, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

It was only a pre-season game but the Edmonton Elks did not look like they were ready for any sort of game on Friday night.

The Elks lost 37-7 to the Calgary Stampeders on The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium in the CFL pre-season finale for both teams. The Elks produced just one point until quarterback Kai Locksley found the end zone with just over five minutes left to play in the fourth quarter.

A day later, the Elks cut 21 players to get down to their 46-man roster and their 10-man practice roster.

Elks head coach and general manager Chris Jones said he and his staff got to work right after the loss. He noted some players played their way onto the roster while others played their way off.

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“Tough game to evaluate, but we had some guys that did a few things that kind of solidified our thoughts about them, and we had some guys that went in the other direction,” Jones said.

“It’s a real tough day to make all of those cuts and release some real good kids. It was really a good group of guys.”

Kicker Sergio Castillo didn’t see action in either pre-season game as he missed some time in camp after his father-in-law in Texas passed away. Castillo will be the place-kicker for 2022 and will be quite busy to start the season, which begins on Saturday in Vancouver against the B.C. Lions.

He’s the only kicker on the active roster with Global player Rafael Gaglianone being on the Elks’ practice roster. Jones said Castillo is able to handle a busy workload.

“Our kicker can punt and I think he averaged about 44 or 45 yards a punt a few years ago,” Jones said. “We’re going to be on the lookout for a guy who can also do that (punt) and we have guys on our roster that can do it as well.”

Jones confirmed Castillo will perform all three kicking duties for the time being.

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The quarterback position is under the microscope still coming out of camp.

Taylor Cornelius started the pre-season game against the Stampeders and went 7-of-12 passing for 42 yards.

Tre Ford was 7-of-14 passing for 79 yards and threw one interception. Ford was the team’s leading rusher with 40 yards on three carries.

Locksley enjoyed the most success passing for 124 yards and throwing just four incomplete passes on 13 pass attempts. He also caught two passes for 21 yards.

Then there is Nick Arbuckle who suffered an upper-body injury in a pre-season win over the Bombers and missed last Friday’s game. There is speculation Arbuckle should be ready this week and should also start at quarterback against the Lions.

Jones said he is not sure who will play but noted he trusts his quarterback room.

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“We’ll see. The game will tell you who is going to play,” he said. “We’ve got some good guys who can get you in and out of the huddle and are very good at what they do. That’s what we’ve asked each of them to do, is to do the things they do best and don’t try to be somebody else.

“Just be yourself and let the game come to you.”

The Elks will be on the field on Tuesday to begin preparations for Saturday. The team rested many of its veterans in the two pre-season games but the loss on Friday to the Stampeders didn’t sit will with Jones. He said he is turning the page but also does not want to dismiss what happened in a 30-point loss.

“I didn’t like the tempo in the game the other night,” Jones said. “I don’t care if it is a pre-season game, you don’t want to look like how we looked like the other night.

“We have to make sure that never happens again.”

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Injury update

The Elks lost two players in consecutive plays on Friday night in receiver Gavin Cobb and defensive lineman Kingsley Opara. Both suffered their injuries in the third quarter.

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Cobb was carted off after trying to recover a fumble and suffered a leg injury.

Opara was admitted to the Royal Alexandra Hospital after suffering head and neck injuries. He was released from hospital on Sunday and all tests came back normal.

Jones said he is getting good reports on both players who will start the rehab process immediately. He added that he has never seen players suffer major injuries on back-to-back plays.

The Elks visit the Lions at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver on Saturday night to begin their regular season schedule. 630 CHED will have live coverage starting with Countdown to Kickoff at 6:30 p.m. The opening kickoff will be at 8 p.m.

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