Riders' QB having his 'best camp' of CFL career
REGINA -- After eight days of Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp, quarterback Cody Fajardo is feeling the most confident he’s ever felt in a pre-season.
The CFL’s 2019 West Division Most Outstanding Player believes he’s in for an even better season in 2021.
“I think I’m having my best camp I’ve ever had in the CFL,” Fajardo said on Saturday.
Fajardo threw 18 touchdowns and 4302 passing yards in 2019 for a 71 per cent completion rate. However, he wasn’t sure how he’d feel after an 18 month hiatus.
“I was a little nervous at first. Just the new offense and being out for a year and a half. The one thing I was really nervous about was getting guys around me in the pocket and trying to see windows,” Fajardo said. “I think I’m completing the ball at a really high numbers and made a lot of good throws.”
Fajardo suffered an oblique tear before CFL playoffs a year and a half ago. But he said he has no lingering effects from the injury, which sidelined him for the final week of the regular season in 2019.
“I rehabbed really well. It helps when your wife is a Doctor of Physical Therapy so she really wrote me up a program,” Fajardo said. “The body feels great. I think the deep ball has been coming out really well. I was a little nervous about ripping the ball over and over rep after rep, that’s something you can’t simulate. The good news about the long delay was my body had plenty of time to heal.”
The Riders could be starting two Canadian receivers this season. Offensive coordinator Jason Maas has been utilizing a pair in many offensive structures this season. The leading candidate for a starting role is slot back Brayden Lenius.
“He’s the MVP of the camp so far, I’m going to say that right here,” Fajardo said. “I think he deserves the most credit, he’s came into camp with a different demeanour.”
In his rookie season in 2019, the 24-year-old was being groomed to play full back. Then the Riders had a change of heart.
“We told Brayden, we want you to drop weight, we want you to train like a receiver and we want you to come back as a receiver not as a tight end slash bigger inside slot,” Craig Dickenson, the Riders head coach, said.
Lenius switched to a pescatarian and plant based diet. The Regina-born player went from 240lbs in 2019, to weighing in at 215lbs at camp this week. Football was the main motivation, but so was the passing of his father, Troy Dickey, a former CFL receiver.
“My dad passed away pretty young,” Lenius said. “His diet, he was like me when he was young he died at a heavier weight, so that puts extra stress on that. I want to live my life right, not just with football but outside of that.”
Lenius can already feel the difference in his game’s explosiveness.
“Being at this weight and being able to move it just gives me more confidence. I’m able to do more things off the line, I’m able to run by guys now which at 240 lbs I wasn’t doing,” Lenius said.
Fajardo, who targeted Lenius three times for four yards in 2019, can tell the New Mexico alumnus put in work.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on him but I think he could be a 1000 yard receiver in this league,” Fajardo noted.
Lenius has been playing in former Rider Cory Watson’s previous slot back position. Nationals Jake Harty, Justin McInnis and Mitchell Picton have also been getting significant repetitions on offense. Having a pair of Canadian’s on the starting lineup sends a strong CFL message.
“Just to have Canadian talent and being able to show we can play it just as well as anybody else,” Lenius said.