The two-man duel for the backup quarterback job in Saskatchewan will largely be decided by how Cody Fajardo and David Watford play in the Riders pre-season game against Calgary.
Starting quarterback Zach Collaros is making the trip to Cowtown, but won’t play as the 30-year-old is cemented as the Riders No. 1 quarterback. Fajardo, Watford, Isaac Harker and Ty Gangi are slated to see live action.
“We’re planning on a heavy emphasis on Fajardo and Watford first half and then the two young guys split the second [half],” head coach Craig Dickenson said.
Fajardo was signed as a free agent in February after spending the 2018 season with the B.C. Lions completing 14-of-20 passes for 153 yards and one touchdown while rushing 42 times for 108 yards and five touchdowns. He was the short yardage and third-string pivot for the Lions behind Travis Lulay and Jonathon Jennings. The 76-year-old spent the first two seasons of his CFL career in Toronto with the Argos.
Watford dressed for 18 games as a CFL rookie last year, seeing action in four games completing 15-of-32 passes for 168 yards, one touchdown against two interceptions while rushing 18 times for 93 yards.
It’s too tight to call right now between Fajardo and Watford for a leader in the competition to backup Collaros who missed five games last season, including the Riders Western semi-final loss to Winnipeg.
“They’re neck-and-neck, as close as you could be, to the point where the game’s going to determine a lot of who wins that job,” Dickenson said.
“We certainly feel like they’re the field generals and if the offence is productive with those quarterbacks running the show that’s going to go a long way towards us believing in them.”
Harker has been standing out to Dickenson at the quarterback position. The Riders rookie played for the Colorado School of Mines. During his senior season for the Orediggers, Harker completed 65.5 per cent of his passes for 3,858 yards, 39 touchdowns against 12 interceptions and rushed 61 times for 142 yards and three touchdowns. That production has carried over into Harker’s first CFL training camp.
“He reminds me of guys that have had success up here. He’s got a real crafty way of doing things,” Dickenson said.
“He escapes the pocket well, he’s very accurate, and he’s highly competitive and intelligent.”
If Harker can show the game speed isn’t too fast for him, Dickenson is considering, based on what he’s shown so far in camp, carrying four quarterbacks for the regular season.
“This is going to be a big pre-season game for all those quarterbacks,” Dickenson said.