‘Every day is important’: Roughriders’ backup QB battle still undetermined in final week of camp

Saskatchewan Roughriders

Taylor Shire

Regina Leader-Post

One thing is clear to the five quarterbacks on the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ roster: Trevor Harris will be the starter in Week 1 of the CFL season.

Beyond that, nothing has been decided.

“Things are still rolling,” said head coach Corey Mace. “They’re making it tough on us.

“They’re competing their tails off.”

Behind Harris, the quarterbacks competing for the No. 2 spot are Shea Patterson, Mason Fine, Antonio Pipkin and rookie Jack Coan — although it appears the backup position is between Patterson and Fine, who each showed well during Saturday’s final pre-season game in Edmonton against the Elks. Pipkin will presumably handle short yardage while Coan could be offered a practice roster spot.

With the pre-season schedule over, the Riders are back on the field in Regina for the final week of training camp before Saturday’s roster cutdown day, when we will get a better idea of what the quarterback depth chart looks like and who might be without a job come Week 1.

“The only thing we’ve been told since Day 1 of camp is that Trevor is starting,” said Patterson. “For the last month, the coaching staff from the top down has gotten a look to make a decision on whatever they’re going to do.

“Now that the games are over, anything that we do this week is just a testament to being ready.”

The 27-year-old Patterson — who completed 8-of-11 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown in two pre-season games this year — previously spent time with the B.C. Lions and Montreal Alouettes before joining the Riders in free agency last off-season.

In limited action last year, he threw six passes and rushed the ball 15 times as he was the team’s short-yardage quarterback to begin the season.

This year, Patterson believes he’s put together a strong camp and deserves consideration for the No. 2 spot.

However, the 6-foot-2, 202-pounder doesn’t necessarily look at the competition as a battle to be the backup, but a competition in general.

“Since I was five years old, I’ve really never competed for a second-string job,” said Patterson. “I’ve always competed for the starting job or always just competed with myself really.”

With that mindset, Patterson recalls a piece of advice he received from former University of Michigan quarterbacks coach Ben McDaniels — who is now the wide receivers coach with the NFL’s Houston Texans — during his senior year of college with the Wolverines in 2019.

“He just said in high school, you really, really enjoy it. In college, you really, really enjoy it. But once you get to the professional realm of things, it’s more of a business,” said Patterson. “I’ve been around long enough to figure that out.

“All I can do is show up and give my best effort every day.”

As for Fine — who won the No. 2 job over Patterson and Jake Dolegala during training camp last year — he carries a similar mentality of showing up to work every day and focusing on the things he can control after going 9-of-11 for 75 yards and a touchdown in the pre-season.

“All this week, it’s all about the same thing that I’ve done in the previous three years,” said the 27-year-old Fine, who has been with the Riders since 2020. “It’s every single day, be a pro, do your job and do it to the best of your ability.”

But what does that look like?

“Every day is important,” said the 5-foot-11, 190-pound University of North Texas product. “No matter what, if it’s early or a pre-season game, it’s about the consistency.

“How do you show up every day to work? Every single day. Because it’s easy to show up on one day and then take two days off; you can’t take any days off.

“You have to show up every single day and you’ve got to be locked in in meetings, you’ve got to be locked in in practice, you’ve got to be locked in in your treatment and you’ve just got to do everything right, every single day.”

With that approach, Fine — who completed 94 of 136 passing attempts for 1,043 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions last season in relief of the injured Harris — also sees his job as competing to be a No. 1 quarterback at practice.

“To be honest, I compete to be the starter every single day,” he said. “Now we Trevor is the starter and stuff, but I’m coming in with that mindset every single day competing for that.

“You have to train and practice like a starter, and be ready mentally and physically … You don’t know when that opportunity is going to come so you have to be ready.”

Riders release two

On Tuesday, the Roughriders announced the release of Canadian linebacker Matt Dean, a third-round pick in the 2023 CFL Draft, and American defensive back Holton Hill, who signed with the club this off-season.