What we learned about Cameron Dukes in Week 1

Argos' new starting QB gives a glimpse of the show ahead

Toronto Argonauts quarterback Cameron Dukes secured a win in his 2024 debut with the Toronto Argonauts on Sunday. (Photo by: Austin Owens, Toronto Argonauts) 

After an off-season of changes, no question was more important to the Toronto Argonauts than how Cameron Dukes would fare as their starting quarterback in week one against the B.C. Lions.

The 25-year-old former short-yardage specialist is tasked with standing in for starting pivot Chad Kelly, who is serving a nine-game suspension for violation the CFL’s gender-based violence policy.

Within the context of football, he’s not in a very envious position, but the 2023 backup wasn’t phased by the uncertainties surrounding the team heading into his first start of the year.

“I feel like the only time I’m not nervous in my life is when I’m playing football,” Dukes said after the Argonauts’ 35-27 comeback victory last Sunday. “You got guys around that trust you, and you got a coaching staff that trusts you, It takes the nerves away from you.” 

It was going to be a tall task for Dukes to come into BMO Field and outduel Lions quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., who racked up 300+ yards in 10 games last season, but the second year QB embraced the opportunity.

“It’s something you dream of as a kid,” Dukes said. “Up against one of the greats in the league, being able to go out there and go head-to-head with Vernon, it’s a great feeling for me. I knew it was going to be a dogfight with him, and that’s something that we take great pride in.”

On top of the strength of the Lions’ roster, the Argos had to manage some other significant changes within their organization.

With former defensive coordinator Corey Mace heading west to Saskatchewan to become the head coach of the Rough Riders and former running back A.J. Ouellette joining him, there was a new look on the defensive end and in the backfield for an Argonauts team that finished 16-2 last season.

Things started out well for the Argos offense on Sunday. On their second drive of the game, Dukes went four-for-four, 62 yards, capping off a 10-play drive with a touchdown pass to veteran back Ka’Deem Carey to give the Argos an early 6-0 lead. 

Then things slipped away pretty quickly. 

The Lions came alive in the second quarter, countering with three consecutive touchdowns to go up 20-6, including a 50-yard bomb from Adams Jr. to a wide open Travis Fulgham. B.C.’s pivot finished with two touchdowns and 363 passing yards along with an interception.

And the visitor’s defence also came up huge, causing two fumbles in the first half, including one on Dukes at Toronto’s 35-yard line that was scooped by defensive lineman Tibo Debaillie for a touchdown. Lions started to look like the team a lot of people picked to make a Grey Cup appearance this year, but the Argonauts had other ideas.

Dukes was able to shake off the Lions’ defensive pressure and pull the Argos within a touchdown with just 1:25 left in the opening half, finishing off a 91-yard drive with a 21-yard pass to Rasheed Bailey deep on the right side of the Lions’ end zone.


Carrying that momentum into third quarter, Dukes found Dejon Brissett for a 26-yard touchdown reception over the middle that tied the game.

A strong defensive effort from the Argonauts caused a turnover on downs, and the Argo quarterback capped off game one with a sneak into the end zone with 1:23 remaining to give Toronto a lead they would not give back. 

So what did we learn about Cameron Dukes? He’s resilient, and loves to be the underdog.

“We know that in the CFL, the way you score points in this league, the game’s never over,” Dukes said. “We knew we were going to come out on top if we just stick together and keep our heads down and trust in everybody around us.

“I’ve been an underdog my whole life, it is what it is. You want to put a title on us, that’s okay. We know we’ve got to beat everybody. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, that’s the kind of mindset that we have.”

Dukes finished with four touchdowns and 254 passing yards, completing 77 per cent of his passes (21-for-27) while also picking up 37 on the ground. 

With the first game jitters out of the way, Dukes and the Argonauts will enter an early bye-week before taking on former Toronto quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and the Edmonton Elks, on June 22 back at BMO Field. 

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Posted: Jun 14 2024 1:32 pm
Filed under: CFL Football Sports Toronto Argonauts