CFL Pass

Riders looking for improvement from Fajardo in 2020

BLUE MOUNTAIN, Ont. — The Saskatchewan Roughriders were quite pleased with Cody Fajardo’s breakout season as the CFL team’s starting quarterback in 2019.

What wasn’t there to like?

The 27-year-old quarterback guided the Riders to first place in the West Division with a 13-5 record while leading the CFL in passing yards (4,302). He threw 18 touchdowns against eight interceptions and also rushed for 10 majors.

Fajardo was the West Division nominee for the league’s most outstanding player award and was also named a CFL all-star for the first time in his pro career.

However, the Riders are hoping that Fajardo can improve on his first season as a starting quarterback at the CFL level.

“What we’re hoping for is consistency,” Riders general manager Jeremy O’Day said Tuesday from the CFL’s annual winter meetings at Blue Mountain Resort.

“He had a very good year and we want to see him play at that level. Now it’s going from being a good quarterback to a great quarterback and that’s the difference between the good ones and the great ones. They are able to do it for multiple years and keep playing at a high level. That’s when you establish yourself as a great one.”

Saskatchewan will be able to track Fajardo’s development thanks to a two-year contract extension that he signed with the Green and White on Oct. 22. The extension means the Riders are established at the CFL’s most important position through the 2021 season.

“The thing was, Cody liked us and we have a good working relationship,” said Riders head coach Craig Dickenson, who is also in Ontario for the winter meetings. “Whether he signed during the season or after wouldn’t have mattered, but you don’t know what the price tag is going to be for some of these quarterbacks. We felt that he was our guy. He has proven and done enough that we were very confident moving forward with him and he felt the same way about us.”

There were challenges in 2019, especially when Fajardo suffered two torn oblique muscles during a practice on Oct. 30. He missed Saskatchewan’s regular-season finale but returned for the West Division final.

Fajardo started and finished the playoff game, completing 27 of 41 passes for 366 yards, but he didn’t connect on a touchdown pass and threw one interception in a 20-13 loss to the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

O’Day has been in contact with Fajardo and doesn’t expect the quarterback to have any issues when training camp kicks off in May.

“It’s an injury that will heal on its own,” O’Day said. “He has done a really good job of taking a long period of time to recover and not get right back into throwing and worry about hurting it further. He’s doing a good job of making sure that it’s fully healed and recovered before he gets too strenuous about what he’s doing.”

Once on the field, Dickenson knows there are areas in which Fajardo can improve.

“He needs to trust his eyes a little more,” Dickenson said. “He comes from a system and background where if it wasn’t quite what he wanted, he would take off and run. As he gets more experience playing the position and more experience reading defences and understanding what he’s seen, he will trust his eyes a little more so he doesn’t feel the need to scramble and get out of the pocket right away.”

NOTES: The Riders released all-star linebacker Derrick Moncrief on Wednesday to pursue an opportunity with an undisclosed NFL team. Moncrief had workouts with eight NFL teams and turned down seven others since the 2019 CFL season ended. Moncrief has had numerous offers and is expected to sign soon … The Riders also announced that cornerback Nick Marshall signed a one-year contract extension. Marshall has dressed for 30 games over two seasons with the Green and White, recording 65 defensive tackles and eight interceptions. He has also returned three picks for touchdowns. Marshall and Moncrief were both eligible to file for free agency on Feb. 11.

mmccormick@postmedia.com

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Source: montrealgazette.com




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