Elks preview: Key additions/subtractions, players to watch, biggest storylines of 2023 season
Coach: Chris Jones
GM: Chris Jones
2022 record: 4-14
Opening game: June 11 vs. Roughriders
Coming off a 4-14 season, head coach and four-time Grey Cup champion Chris Jones and quarterback Taylor Cornelius look to bounce back as a star-studded free agent class breathes new life into the storied franchise.
Jones, who is the first coach in Edmonton football history to have two separate tenures and the first to hold roles of GM and head coach simultaneously, re-joined the franchise last season after spending the 2021 season with the Toronto Argonauts as a defensive consultant.
Key additions and subtractions
Eugene Lewis, the biggest name in the 2022 free-agent class, joined the Elks after spending five seasons with the Montreal Alouettes (2017-19, 2021-22), racking up 276 receptions for 4,347 yards and 28 touchdowns.
The former Oklahoma Sooner was named the East Division’s Most Outstanding Player in 2022, while earning his third consecutive CFL East All-Star nod (2019, 2021-22).
Lewis was not the lone pass catcher to join the Elks as former Tiger-Cat Steven Dunbar Jr. followed suit.
Extensions were handed out to two-time League All-Star Emmanuel Arceneaux, defensive back Ed Gainey, and defensive lineman Christian Rector.
Departing from the Elks lineup: running back Ante Milanovic-Litre, who signed with the Ottawa Redblacks; wide receiver Derel Walker, who signed with the Roughriders; and the Elks’ biggest loss, receiver Kenny Lawler, who re-joined the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, where he won back-to-back Grey Cups in 2019 and 2021.
Player to watch
Though the Elks drafted University of Waterloo product Tre Ford sixth overall last spring, the Elks signed Cornelius to a two-year extension, keeping him with the Elks through the 2024 season and signifying that he will be the QB face of the Elks.
Cornelius played in 12 games last season, completing 205 passes for 2,768 yards and 11 touchdowns to nine interceptions. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy also rushed for 502 yards and seven majors.
While their alma maters may be rivals, Lewis’ addition to the Elks’ offence provides Cornelius with a proven pass catcher with an All-Star track record to pair with reliable targets in Dillon Mitchell, Kyran Moore, and Dunbar.
“There’s no shortage of offensive talent on this team, after the emergence of receiver Dillon Mitchell and running back Kevin Brown last season, complemented by a free-agent haul highlighted by former Alouette Geno Lewis. All of which sets the table for quarterback Taylor Cornelius to take a big leap forward in season three. On defence, there’s still lots to prove, based on last season’s results. Former CFL sack leader A.C. Leonard reuniting with former coach Chris Jones should help.” – TSN Football Insider Dave Naylor
“Will the Elks offence live up to the hype? Certainly a lot of can’t-miss pieces here. Dillon Mitchell and Kevin Brown gave fans a lot to be excited about and adding Geno Lewis and Steven Dunbar to that mix is tantalizing. Will it all fit? Will Taylor Cornelius be able to take advantage of it all? After the last couple of seasons, the fans won’t be patient.”– TSN Football Insider Farhan Lalji
Week 1 – Trevor Harris makes his return to Commonwealth Stadium as the Saskatchewan Roughriders tangle with the Elks.
Week 3 – The defending Grey Cup champs come to town as the Elks take on the Argonauts.
Week 11 – Having seen him as a provincial rival with the Calgary Stampeders, the Elks get a look at Bo Levi Mitchell in Black and Gold as they travel to Hamilton to take on the Tiger-Cats.
Week 19 – Lewis’ old team, the Alouettes, march into Commonwealth to take on his new Elks team.