Cody Fajardo is giving rookie head coach Craig Dickenson a very pleasant problem.
With incumbent Zach Collaros on the six-game injured list, Fajardo has throw for 790 yards with four TDs in two starts with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Fajardo had a career-best 430 passing yards in leading the Riders past Toronto 32-7 for a rain-delayed first win of the season Monday night.
Fajardo was a one-man show in the first half. He threw for 293 yards and two TDs while rushing for another in staking Saskatchewan to an emphatic 25-0 second-quarter advantage before rain and lightning forced action to be delayed over two hours.
Fajardo has amassed the most passing yards by a Riders quarterback in his first two CFL starts in club history, surpassing longtime starter Darian Durant (688 yards). And that could present Dickenson with quite a decision when Collaros returns.
Fajardo was 27-of-34 passing for 360 yards and two touchdowns in his first start of the season, a 44-41 road loss in Ottawa on June 20.
The six-foot-two, 215-pound Fajardo began his CFL career with Toronto in 2016 and earned a Grey Cup ring with the franchise the following year. He spent last season as a backup with the B.C. Lions before joining the Riders.
Fajardo has completed 60-of-82 passes (73.2 per cent) for 856 yards with four TDs and no interceptions this season. He's also scored three rushing touchdowns.
Collaros, 30, opened the season as Saskatchewan's starter but went on the six-game injured list after being hit in the head by Hamilton linebacker Simoni Lawrence in the Riders' season-opening 23-17 loss. Collaros missed four regular-season games and the West Division semifinal last year with a concussion.
Collaros guided Hamilton to a Grey Cup appearance in 2014 — his first season with the Ticats — and led the team to an 8-3 start in 2015 before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He was leading the CFL in passing (3,376 yards), TDs (25) and passer rating (113.7) at the time.
Collaros appeared in just 10 games the following season then lost his starting job to Jeremiah Masoli after Hamilton's 0-8 start in 2017. Collaros was dealt to Saskatchewan in January 2018 and re-signed with the Riders last year.
Saskatchewan hosts the Grey Cup-champion Calgary Stampeders (1-1) on Saturday night.
EXPLOSIVE BANKS: Brandon Banks has scored touchdowns three different ways already this season.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats receiver — appropriately dubbed Speedy B — is the CFL's receiving leader with 334 yards on 20 catches with a touchdown (on a 47-yard pass from Jeremiah Masoli). He's also returned a missed field goal 113 yards for a TD (in Ticats' 64-14 road win over Toronto on June 22) then scored on a 30-yard run in a 41-10 home victory over Montreal on Friday night
Banks has seven career punt return TDs but none since 2017. Hamilton has dramatically scaled back Banks' special-teams appearances as he's become more of an offensive focal point. Banks had a career-best 94 catches for 1,423 yards with 11 TDs last season.
Banks, who was the CFL's top special-teams player in 2015, has also returned a kickoff for a TD as well as four missed field goals. But Banks said there's another way he can contribute to Hamilton's scoring.
"Passing . . . someone needs to call (Ticats offensive co-ordinator) Tommy Condell and put that in there for a play," Banks said following the win over Montreal, tongue firmly in cheek. "Whenever my number is called I'm just trying to help my team win.
"We're trying to put points on the board, that's all."
Ticats coach Orlondo Steinauer, 3-0 as a CFL head coach, is just happy Banks is on his team.
"I just know that he is a dynamic player, that's busted his tail and grown a lot," Steinauer said. "Obviously Jeremiah is comfortable with him and he's just a special football player.
"He can score whether it's in the return game, running the ball or obviously receiving. I think he'd be the first to tell you he expects that of himself and I'm just glad he's on our team."
WHAT NOW?: Fortunately for the Toronto Argonauts, they don't have time to dwell upon their early-season struggles.
Toronto (0-2) suffered its second straight loss Monday night, a 32-7 decision in Regina to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. This season the Argos have been outscored 96-21 and allowed over 1,100 offensive yards.
Toronto resumes league action Saturday night hosting B.C. (0-3).
Toronto's dismal start certainly won't help ticket sales for Saturday night's game, especially considering the Lions aren't a huge draw. The Argos had over 16,000 fans for their season opener — the franchise average just over 14,000 spectators last year — but proceeded to drop a lopsided 64-14 decision to arch-rival Hamilton at BMO Field.
The Argos haven't been good in all three phases in either game this season, giving fans precious few reasons to continue supporting the club. Starter James Franklin has completed 36-of-54 passes (66.7 per cent) but for only 435 yards with more interceptions (three) than TDs (one).
Big-play receiver Derel Walker, Toronto's key off-season free-agent acquisition, is averaging 24.6 yards per catch but only has five thus far, and 98 of his 123 total yards have come on two receptions.
To be fair, Toronto has a new defensive co-ordinator (first-year head coach Corey Chamblin) and offensive co-ordinator (Jacques Chapdelaine). However, neither unit has been in sync thus far, which certainly won't help attendance.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press