January 16, 2024

Gittens Jr. provides X factor for Elks offence

EDMONTON, AB – The Edmonton Elks certainly added a little excitement to offensive side of the ball on Monday.

The team announced the acquisition of National wide receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. from the Toronto Argonauts yesterday, sending Jake Ceresna the other way in the all-star shuffle.

In the Canadian Football League, it’s Canadian talent that can tip the scales on any given team and the Elks just acquired one of the league’s best National designated players.

Gittens Jr. comes to the Elks with both an all-star pedigree – he was named a CFL East All-Star in 2021 and 2022 and a CFL All-Star in 2022 – but also has a ready-made chemistry with starting quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who was his QB from 2021 to 2022. The last season the duo was working in lockstep, they connected for the fifth-most receptions in the CFL with 81, sixth most receiving yards with 1,101, and the ninth most touchdowns with five.

The Wilfrid Laurier product was far-and-away the top National receiver in the game in 2022, finishing the year with 329 receiving yards ahead of second place Nic Demski of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Last season was a bit of a different story for Gittens Jr., who had to fight through both injuries and building a new connection with an entirely different quarterback in Chad Kelly. Despite only suiting up for 10 contests, Gittens Jr. recorded 35 catches for 416 yards – totals that have not been topped by a National Elks wide receiver since Tevaun Smith collected 55 passes for 632 yards in 2019.

The 26-year-old also fills a positional need for the Elks, regardless of passport. With the departure of Steven Dunbar Jr. earlier this month and Manny Arceneaux’s pending free-agency, Gittens Jr. fits right in the slot as both a middle-of-the-field option and a guy who can exploit the waggle for shots down the field from by Bethel-Thompson’s rocket arm. The late season emergence of fellow Canadian wideout Gavin Cobb can also give General Manager and Head Coach Chris Jones and Offensive Coordinator Jarious Jackson some depth and flexibility when it comes deciding the Elks ratio on a given game.

It has been a while since the Elks have had a Canadian pass catcher as dynamic as Gittens Jr.. The Green and Gold have not seen a National wide receiver eclipse the 1000-yard plateau since Kamau Peterson accomplished the feat during the 2008 season — recording an impressive 1317 yards on 101 receptions. Gittens Jr.’s  reunion with Bethel-Thompson and the attention an elite receiver like Geno Lewis attracts, gives the Elks newest weapon as good a shot as any of ending the 15-year drought.