Jeremy O’Day thinks Paxton Lynch can help Riders, won’t confirm if he is No. 2 or No. 3 QB

Screenshot courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ general manager Jeremy O’Day spoke to the media on Saturday and spoke highly of former first-round NFL draft pick Paxton Lynch.

“He’s got a high level of ability,” said O’Day in a videoconference. “He came into camp a few days after the rest of the guys, so he didn’t have the off-season, he didn’t have 2020 to have video calls. He didn’t have the training camp calls early-on where he could learn the playbook, so it’s quite impressive that he was able to come in and pick the amount of information and the playbook up as fast as he did.”

The Riders kept three quarterbacks on the active roster when final cuts were announced on Friday. It’s safe to assume that Cody Fajardo is Saskatchewan’s starter, but it remains unclear if Isaac Harker or Paxton Lynch will be the primary backup.

O’Day didn’t provide any indication of the team’s plans at quarterback and will defer to head coach Craig Dickenson to make that decision.

“That’s a question for Coach Dickenson,” said the second-year general manager. “That’s ultimately up to him. It’s the coach’s decision what the actual depth chart looks like.”

O’Day is pleased the team was able to keep Lynch around, which was made more challenging due to the CFL’s new roster makeup.

“We see Paxton as a player that just keeps getting better every day, to be honest with you. He’s new to the CFL, it is different. The waggle’s not something that you just pick-up right away and the motions and the terminology and the extra man. He’s gotten better each day and we think he’s a good football player. We think he can help us,” said O’Day.

The CFL recently changed its roster rules, limiting teams to dressing two quarterbacks for regular season games. It appears the Riders will have to make Harker or Lynch a healthy scratch for Week 1 or move one of them to the one-game injured list.

“We liked all of our quarterbacks and it was close coming down to the end. When we looked at it we wanted to keep as many of them as we could and tried to create a way to keep them. We think we’ve got some guys that are very good players at the position,” said O’Day.

Dickenson said that Harker had a “slim lead” over the other quarterbacks at the midway point of training camp, though there were no preseason games for the passers to see action against another team.

Harker entered the 2019 season as the No. 3 quarterback on Saskatchewan’s depth chart behind Zach Collaros and Cody Fajardo. He ended up seeing action in four games, completing 44-of-61 passes for 467 yards and three interceptions.

The native of Lebanon, Ind. spent the off-season bribing his sister with Dunkin’ Donuts coffee to help him master Jason Maas’ playbook.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders open the 2021 season at home against the B.C. Lions on Friday, Aug. 6 at Mosaic Stadium. The game is already sold out, though it remains to be seen if Lynch will be wearing a uniform or street clothes when it begins.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.