Riders’ Craig Dickenson not concerned about ‘disagreements’ with newly extended DB Nick Marshall

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Head coach Craig Dickenson is happy to have Nick Marshall back with the Saskatchewan Roughriders next season, but that doesn’t mean they’ll always get along.

The Riders inked Marshall to a one-year contract extension in December, a move that raised a few eyebrows after the ball-hawking corner sparked controversy in 2022 for social media comments that were critical of his coach.

Dickenson was forced to publicly address the issue in an attempt to mend fences with his player but said the incident provided him with no doubts about whether to re-sign Marshall.

“No, Nick’s a good dude,” Dickenson said during an appearance on The SportsCage in Regina this week. “In today’s world with Twitter, sometimes something can get taken out of context and there’s gonna be disagreements. Nick and I have had disagreements before and we’ll probably have more in the future, but they’ve always been respectful and considerate.”

Marshall took issue with comments made by Dickenson following the team’s Week 15 loss to Edmonton, in which the coach acknowledged to the media that the Riders were “not very good” and that their 4-1 start to the season had been the result of playing poor opponents.

The refreshingly honest appearance came when Saskatchewan was 6-8 and was punctuated by a belief in his team’s ability to get better. However, Marshall responded to an Instagram post of those comments by accusing his coach of being duplicitous and presenting a rosier picture to those inside the locker room than he was sharing with the media.

Dickenson addressed Marshall’s criticism by alleging that the comments were misquoted and taken out of context, a claim which did not hold up to scrutiny of the video evidence. Nevertheless, he appeared to succeed in dousing any internal dissent, though the Riders still lost each of their final four games and missed the playoffs.

Given their high-profile disagreement, many wondered if the 30-year-old Marshall would move on after his head coach was retained, either by choice or due to an organizational decision. That proved not to be the case, as Saskatchewan made re-signing him a top priority.

“We’ve got a lot of free agents, so we felt like we had the ability to sign Nick. We felt like he was coming in at a fair market value and we wanted to sign our players as best we could,” Dickenson explained.

“I feel good about Nick and I think he’s still one of the top DBs in the league. He’s got a few things to work on but he brings a lot to the table. Anytime you can sign players like that, I think it’s good.”

Marshall started 16 games at boundary cornerback this past season, recording 24 tackles, five knockdowns, and four interceptions. The six-foot-one, 207-pound defender has played 60 games since joining the Riders in 2018, making 119 tackles, 15 interceptions, and one forced fumble. He was named a West Division all-star in 2021.

While Dickenson notes that the converted college quarterback must improve his tackling this offseason, he was also a positive focal point in the team’s coaching staff interviews over the last few months.

“One thing we’ve learned through the interview process, we asked all the candidates to evaluate our roster and almost every candidate said the same thing about Nick,” the head coach highlighted. “Outstanding ball skills; when the ball’s in the air, it’s not truly 50/50 because Nick’s able to catch it probably more than half the time.”

In a league where takeaways are becoming increasingly critical, that skillset was far too valuable to lose over a social media faux pas. As such, Dickenson is excited to keep working with Marshall going forward.

“He’s got to improve as a tackler and he knows that and we’re going to work hard this offseason to try to get him to tackle better, but he’s an outstanding cover guy,” Dickenson said. “He’s a good teammate, smart, and we just feel like anytime you can add a good veteran player, [it’s good].”