For the first time since 2019, we are going to have CFL football on the schedule this year. It should be a wild season with maybe the unexpected happening. A wide open season is what we should expect in the CFL in 2021. There were some teams that didn’t have good seasons two years ago, but I could see one or two of them stepping up.
If I have to take a guess at who is going to come up with a strong campaign from the back of the field, I’m leaning with the Toronto Argonauts. The Argonauts have a big chance of improving from 4-14 and finishing above .500 this season. It wouldn’t be as much of a leap forward, but the Edmonton Elks should go up as well.
There has to be teams that regress if the Argonauts and Elks are going to move up in the standings. The Saskatchewan Roughriders might be one of those teams going in the wrong direction. They won the West Division in 2019 with a record of 13-5 for a slim advantage on the Calgary Stampeders.
Week one is a wrap 🏁
— Saskatchewan Roughriders (@sskroughriders) July 18, 2021
The Roughriders are in pretty tough this season, or at least it should be more competitive than 2019. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Stampeders are both going to be competitive and probably better than 2019. That’s not to say the Roughriders don’t have the necessary talent to have another good season and win the division. They’re probably going to have more pressure on them from other teams in the CFL, though.
Head coach Craig Dickenson is back for his second season with the Riders. He was hired following the 2018 season, and it was a solid move for the organization going by the results. Dickenson will have his quarterback returning to Saskatchewan in 2021. Former Nevada Wolf Pack, Cody Fajardo, is back with the Roughriders following a promising first-year campaign in 2019. Head below for our free Saskatchewan Roughriders season preview and predictions for 2021.
The Roughriders’ offence will go or fall on the arm of Cody Fajardo. He spent his first three years in the CFL completing spot duty off the bench for the Argos and Lions. In his first season as a first-year starter, Fajardo held up well with 4,302 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions.
Dickenson is expecting Fajardo to build on that season and develop into one of the best quarterbacks in the CFL. He’s on his way after leading the league in passing. Along with his arm, Fajardo can run the ball as a dual-threat quarterback. Fajardo ran the pistol offense at Nevada following in Colin Kaepernick’s footsteps. Some legs are required to be a quarterback in a pistol system.
"A lot of meaningful football coming up, and I'm excited about the opportunity."
— Saskatchewan Roughriders (@sskroughriders) July 29, 2021
Fajardo finished with 611 yards on 5.7 yards per game for the Riders in 2019. Teams won’t be surprised by his taking off ability on the ground this year. Defences are likely going to put more of an emphasis on defending Fajardo as a runner in 2021. He will have one of his favourite targets this season with Shaq Evans back in Saskatchewan. The offensive line should be improved with the addition of Evan Johnson as well.
Evans had a big campaign in 2019 with 1,334 yards and 5 receiving touchdowns. This was only the second season in the CFL for the Inglewood native and he improved from 785 yards and no touchdowns in 2018. Kyran Moore, who had a big season as well, with 996 yards and 6 touchdowns, is back for the Roughriders as well.
Underrated running back William Powell should be a major contributor in the backfield to give the Roughriders a balanced offence. The offence is going to tick with Fajardo, but Powell is going to give Saskatchewan enough to keep linebackers and secondary honest. For NFL fans, they will recognize the backup on the bench. Former first-round selection Paxton Lynch made final cuts and is expected to be the No. 2 or No. 3 quarterback going into Week 1.
The biggest missing piece from the Roughriders’ defence is going to be Charleston Hughes. The defensive lineman will be without Hughes who signed with the Toronto Argonauts. This is a defender that might be a 37-year-old, but was still racking up big numbers in 2019. He finished with an impressive 16 sacks and 4 forced fumbles.
🎤 : "… the new guys and the rookies are doing really well. They're flying around."
— Saskatchewan Roughriders (@sskroughriders) July 14, 2021
That will be absent from the defence, though the Roughriders do have pass rusher Micah Johnson signed to a one-year deal.Johnson spent the first six years of his career in Calgary with the Stampeders. He recorded a career-high in sacks in 2018 with 14 and 3 forced fumbles. Johnson regressed in his first season in Saskatchewan with 4 sacks, and will be asked to take on a larger role in the absence of Hughes. As a 33-year-old, Johnson is four years younger than Hughes.
The leader of the defence has to be defensive back Ed Gainey. He was re-signed in Saskatchewan and is one of the better defensive backs that you are going to find in the CFL. He only had 2 interceptions in 2019, but that was mainly because the ball wasn’t going in his direction much. After Gainey had 10 picks in 2017, quarterbacks started looking elsewhere more often.
Saskatchewan Roughriders Season Prediction
The Roughriders are going to be a competitive team in the West Division. They most likely compete with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the divisional title. Having said that, other teams are getting better and should give the Roughriders some more pressure. It’s not going to be as easy to repeat in the West.
The development and progress of Cody Fajardo is important, but making up for the lost production of Charleston Hughes on defence might be the deciding factor for the Riders in 2021. I’m confident in Fajardo playing well, but it’s not going to be easy to replace what Hughes was able to do two years ago. Look for the Roughriders to compete near the front of the league, but there should be more company to contend with.