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Argos QB Dukes 'not surprised' by big win in Week 1


The Toronto Argonauts opened their season with a 35-27 victory over the BC Lions at home on Sunday.

This despite entering the game as 4.5-point underdogs on FanDuel and missing several key contributors on both sides of the ball who helped Toronto to a 16-2 record a year ago.

"I don't think [our strong start] was anything we were surprised about in our locker room," said quarterback Cameron Dukes as a guest on TSN 1050's First Up on Wednesday.

Dukes made his third career start in the CFL in the win, and threw for three touchdowns to go with 254 passing yards. The 25-year-old also rushed for a touchdown.

"Everybody on the outside might have been [surprised] because they had us as the underdog, but we were just focused on doing our job," said Dukes. "No matter who was up, it was a 'next man up' mentality and we got it done. We came together as a team, and it was a full team win, that's for sure."

Dukes entered the season as the starter under centre after incumbent QB and 2023 CFL MOP Chad Kelly was suspended by the league for nine games for violating the gender-based violence policy.

The second-year player made sure to focus on keeping a consistent mindset despite the change in role in the offence, and head coach Ryan Dinwiddie felt the same way, said Dukes.

"Coach Dinwiddie is trying to keep the game plan as close as we can to last year. You don't want to change too much because a new guy is behind centre," Dukes said. "I think he tries to match my strengths within our offence and play call according to that, but I don't think we try to get away too much from what we like to do."

In addition to Kelly being suspended, key performers including running back A.J. Ouellette (Saskatchewan Roughriders), linebacker Jordan Williams (traded, Hamilton), cornerbacks Adarius Pickett (Ottawa), Jamal Peters (Ticats) and Qwan'Tez Stiggers (NFL's New York Jets), kicker Boris Bede (released), returner Javon Leake (Edmonton) and defensive linemen Brandon Barlow and DeWayne Hendrix (both Ticats) are no longer with the team. 

Wide receiver Damonte Coxie was also out of the lineup for the season opener with a hamstring injury. Despite the many absences, four players exceeded 40 yards receiving in the win, and running back Ka'Deem Carey went over 100 yards from scrimmage in his debut with the Double Blue. 

"My goal every week is to take what the defence gives me, don't try to do too much and put our guys in positions where once they catch the ball they can make something happen," Dukes said. "We have great athletes all around us, a great offensive line and a great defence. All three phases of our team are really good."

Dukes, a native of Shepherdsville, Ky., followed an unusual path to the CFL, including a four-year career with Lindsey Wilson College, a Division II school in Kentucky, followed by a one-year stop in the Indoor Football League with the Vegas Knight Hawks before joining the Argonauts in 2023.

"My dream and my goal, from the time I was six years old and started playing little league football was to become a professional athlete. When I was coming out of high school I wasn't the biggest guy in the world," said Dukes. 

"I understood that I wasn't going to get the Power 5 offers that other guys were getting, so Lindsey Wilson was my only written, on-paper offer."

The journey from Division II college to indoor football to the CFL has been an ongoing learning process for Dukes, but he doesn't take it for granted.

"I'm still adapting in some ways, learning things I can and can't do," he said. "... I want to be a great quarterback in this league, and I think that growing and learning is something you can do every year no matter where you're at in your career," Dukes said.

The Argonauts have a bye week in Week 2 and return to action on June 22 at home against the Edmonton Elks. 

You can watch that game LIVE on the TSN Network, and the TSN App, with coverage starting at 7pm ET / 4pm PT.