Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson is honest to the bone.
The 51-year-old recorded winning records in his first two seasons as the Riders’ bench boss, but he’s in danger of going sub-.500 in a year where Saskatchewan is hosting the CFL’s championship game.
“For the most part it’s the same group that started the year 4-1, but we didn’t play anybody at the beginning of the year,” Dickenson said.
“I’m just going to be honest: we’re not very good. That’s an obvious statement, but we weren’t that good even at 4-1. We just got a little bit of a jump on people, I felt. We haven’t played up to our abilities.”
That was the case in the Roughriders’ 26-24 loss to Edmonton in Week 15. The Elks earned a hard-fought win in Chris Jones’ return to Regina after leaving his dual-role position with the green and white to take an NFL job with the Cleveland Browns in January 2019. Saskatchewan stumbled to their third-straight loss and sits fourth place in the West Division at 6-8.
“Disappointing. Poor. Not certainly up to our standard. Not what we plan on doing. Not what we strive to be. We gotta figure out a way to turn it around because there are four games left and we are not assured of a playoff spot at this point,” Dickenson said.
“This team’s gone through a lot of adversity and it’s worn down right now a little bit. The guys in there are beat up, they’re tired and we’re not playing well. When you add all those factors in, on a group that’s really on their last legs, their confidence is down.”
Dickenson assured Rider Nation that he, general manager Jeremy O’Day, and assistant GM Kyle Carson would “work hard” during the bye week to figure out where the team can improve. Saskatchewan’s remaining matchups are at Winnipeg, at Hamilton, at home against Calgary, and a return visit with the Stampeders at McMahon Stadium to end the regular schedule.
“Duke (Williams) had some words to the group that were really powerful and very intelligent. I was very proud of Duke and admire what he had to say. He said, basically, we’ve got six weeks to commit fully to this season and see how far we can go,” Dickenson said.
“I hope those guys do it, I know we’re going to do it as a staff. We’re hosting this thing this year and we want to try to be in it, any way possible, but we’ll have to play better moving forward to get there.”
Offensively, the line must step up its protection of quarterback Cody Fajardo. He was sacked eight times against predominantly a three-man Edmonton pass rush. The dual-threat pivot was able to complete 20-of-27 passes (74.1 percent) for 230 yards and two touchdowns without any interceptions while leading the team in rushing with 47 yards on six carries.
“I know this: if we punch our ticket into the playoffs, a lot of teams will be afraid of us. I know that for sure. This team has got some talent. The guys in that locker room are trying to stick together. The worrisome part is not letting the team fall apart and try to be together for one another,” Fajardo said.
“We’ve been through as much adversity — one day maybe I’ll write a book on it — because I don’t think you guys know half that’s going on in that locker room throughout this entire year. The way that these guys have responded and continued to stay together has been pretty inspirational.”
Fajardo has to rally the Riders if the green and white even want a chance at a postseason run to a home Grey Cup.