Entering his third season with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the major question surrounding starting quarterback Cody Fajardo is how well his deep ball attack will work this season.
Fajardo’s throwing abilities impressed many in his first year with the team in 2019, but his performance declined in 2021. The Riders showed some weaknesses in their offence in 2021 and the area most impacted was down the field passing success.
“I’ve been trying to work on a little bit more air on the ball to give our guys a chance,” Fajardo told radio play-by-play man Michael Ball. “If you don’t give the guy a chance, you don’t complete the ball.”
Fajardo noted how he worked on this aspect of his game during the offseason and kept at it in training camp. He is seeing things down the field a little bit slower now but recognizes everything goes quicker on game day. After a flurry of criticism a year ago, fans will be focused on seeing if Fajardo can sit in the pocket and connect with his receivers.
Duke Williams and Shaq Evans are expected to be Fajardo’s key targets, along with Kyran Moore when he returns from injury. Williams joined the Riders in the middle of the 2021 season and Evans, who was injured most of last year, is healthy and ready to go. Both Williams and Evans seem to have gelled with Fajardo throughout the preseason.
“We have all been with Cody,” said Shaq Evans, noting many in the receiver group this season are veterans. “You can tell from day one that we are just more comfortable with each other, more comfortable with the offence.”
In both 2019 and 2021, Fajardo proved he could win games by doing more than just throwing. He rushed 107 times for 611 yards and 10 touchdowns two seasons ago and last season produced 468 yards and four touchdowns on 78 carries.
“I never know when my last football snap is going to be, I want to go out winning as many football games as I can,” said Fajardo. “Put those stats aside, I don’t care if I throw for five yards, if we find a way to win a game, we win a game.”
Winning is what the Riders will need to do if they want to be on the turf for a Grey Cup championship at home in November. Whether we’ll see a more vertical or horizontal Fajardo get them there is to be determined.