Matt Nichols Injury Ends QB Debate in Edmonton for Now

Al Dannity | Updated Jun 18, 2013

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The battle between Matt Nichols and Mike Reilly to be the Eskimos’ starting quarterback is over following a season-ending injury to Nichols. Al Dannity says Reilly shouldn’t get too comfortable in the back-field.

It was over before it began. The quarterback competition between Matt Nichols and Mike Reilly was supposed to be the most interesting part of the CFL pre-season. Picking one to start for Edmonton was proving difficult, an injury made the debate moot. Nichols suffered anterior cruciate ligament injury in Friday’s loss to the Roughriders and will now miss the whole of the 2013 season. Nichols picked up the injury while trying to tackle Carlos Thomas, a Saskatchewan defensive back who had picked off his pass.

Nichols, a four year starter at Eastern Washington where he made two trips to the FCS playoffs, got his break in the CFL with two starts in 2012. An injury in the playoffs ended his season abruptly but he had rehabbed hard to get back on the field in 2013. Instead he will be replaced by a man who also played College Football in Washington. Having been buried on the depth chart at Washington State, Mike Reilly became a star at Division II level with Central Washington before bouncing around a few NFL team albeit mostly on practice squads. After moving north, Reilly won the Grey Cup as third-string QB on the B.C. Lions in 2011. After putting in an impressive display in his two starts for the Lions, Reilly caught the attention of Edmonton who acquired him in the off-season.

Now he’s definitely going to get the chance to prove his worth. Just because the main competition is gone, the pressure is still squarely on Reilly’s shoulders. Kerry Joseph goes from third-string mentor to the back-up looking over Reilly’s shoulder. Joseph got the starter’s job last season after Steven Jyles played his way out of town. 2013 was supposed to be about the 2007 MOP adopting a role where he’d tutor Nichols and Reilly, helping one to develop into the bona fide starter for the Eskimos. That role simply can’t be the reality now. At 39, Joseph may be old but he hasn’t lost the competitive streak. Joseph knows that Reilly is the man standing between him and the starter’s job and has said he is ready to step up if necessary. Reilly can still learn from Joseph but now he must also compete with him. That’s not ideal for Edmonton but it could benefit Reilly; who better to learn from than your chief competition?

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