Riders’ Craig Dickenson wants quarterback Cody Fajardo ‘to step up his game’ after CFL all-star season in 2019

Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson has issued a challenge to Cody Fajardo: improve on CFL all-star calibre play at quarterback.

Following Zach Collaros’ concussion in the first game of the 2019 season, Fajardo emerged as the unquestioned starter for the Riders. It was exactly two years ago to the day, June 20, Fajardo made his first career start in the CFL.

The 29-year-old QB completed 79 percent of his passes for 360 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions while adding another major on the ground in a 44-41 loss to the Ottawa Redblacks. That performance was the start of a special season during which Fajardo finished with a league-leading 4,302 passing yards to go alongside 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He rushed 107 times for 611 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Saskatchewan signed Fajardo to an extension through the 2022 season in December 2020. In 2021, his base salary checks in at $250,000 with a $140,000 signing bonus, $12,000 in housing money, a $2,000 travel allowance, and the following incentives: $2,000 West Division all-star; $3,000 CFL all-star; and $5,000 league Most Outstanding Player. Dickenson wants Fajardo to earn all of his possible money.

“He’s excited about being the starting quarterback coming into a situation where he knows he’s got the job and now it’s up to him to step up his game and be even better than he was last season,” Dickenson said on a videoconference.

“Cody’s worked hard, I’ve talked to him a number of times the last year and a half. He’s worked these last 18 months to try to improve his game. He hasn’t sat around and just waited for the bell, he’s been working.”

Part of his regimen during the pandemic has been regular Zoom meetings and phone calls with offensive coordinator Jason Maas. The two men have been reviewing game film, discussing strategy, and most importantly, familiarizing Fajardo with the new playbook Maas has been installing. Dickenson has been in constant contact with Maas regarding the transition on offence.

“Coach Maas watched our entire 2019 season a number of times. He’s not going to change the things that Cody did well and the things that worked for our offence in 2019, we’re just going to add to it. I don’t see it as being a real big challenge,” Dickenson said.

“It’s still CFL football, the terminology changes, but most of these guys that have been in the league a few years understand concepts. Training camp is longer than it is in normal years, so we’re going to have more time.”

Riders training camp is scheduled to begin July 10 in Regina. It will be the first time in Fajardo’s pro career that he enters a season as the No. 1 quarterback. There are prairie sky-high expectations for the affable face of the franchise and he’ll finally have a chance to prove the Riders’ investment was worth it.

Must Read