C.J. Gable could give Mike Reilly what he’s been missing: a 1,000-yard rusher

C.J. Gable just might be the missing piece for the Edmonton Eskimos.

While the Eskimos have had some terrific running backs over the years, they haven’t employed a 1,000-yard workhorse in the parts of six seasons quarterback Mike Reilly has been running the show.

Gable sure looked like a candidate to be that guy after he arrived from Hamilton late in 2017, but he didn’t get much work in his first two games this season.

However, Gable stepped up in a 41-22 win over the B.C. Lions at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday, establishing career highs with 23 carries and 165 rushing yards. The game turned on the ground, not on the strength of Reilly’s passing arm.

“The run game is a huge part of the CFL,” Reilly said. “You certainly see it later in the year, in October and November, when the weather starts to change, but it’s nice when you can start the season out and get the run game going, get it untracked.

“You saw it last year in the final third of our season when C.J. showed up. Things really started to pick up and change for us offensively. It makes everything easier. It makes the pass game a lot easier. People have to start loading the box up and the offensive line gets the ability to fire off on run plays, so now the D-line can’t just pin their ears back and pass-rush the entire time.”

In his four games with the Eskimos in 2017, Gable had 367 yards on 72 carries.

He had been quiet leading into Friday, carrying 18 times for 76 yards. Gable set the tone early against the Lions when he rumbled for 21 yards. Reilly stuck with him after that as the Eskimos improved to 2-1 heading into Saturday’s game in Toronto against the Argonauts.

“I give credit to the offensive line. They made the holes for me and I tried to hit them,” said the 30-year-old Gable, who has 241 yards on 41 carries this year. “You get into a good groove and after that I was feeling it. That’s a big thing, getting started fast. I told myself, ‘just relax, it’s going to come, it’s going to come so don’t rush anything.’ ”

Gable’s most productive CFL season came in 2013 when he was a rookie with Hamilton – he had 130 carries for 782 yards and seven touchdowns in 15 games. Gable also played 15 games in 2016, picking up 693 yards on 126 carries.

“He’s an unselfish player,” Reilly said. “In the first two games of the season, we weren’t running the ball as well as we did in the third game. He was still there in pass protection and doing what was asked of him.”

While Reilly had good running backs in John White and Shakir Bell during his previous five seasons in Edmonton, the quarterback led the team in rushing in two of those seasons. He had 709 yards in 2013 and 390 yards in 2017. He was second twice, in 2014 and 2015.

The ability to run the ball is a big part of what makes Reilly a handful for opposing teams, but it also accounts for a lot of extra wear and tear on the league’s reigning most outstanding player, who has back-to-back seasons with 5,000-plus passing yards.

“C.J. barely beat me out in 2013,” smiled Reilly. “I think he was fourth overall or something and I was fifth. I remind him of that all the time.

“You’ve got to do what the defence gives up to you and there’s going to be times where I’m going to tuck it and run. As you get into your veteran years as a quarterback, you don’t have to rely on that as much because of your knowledge of what the offence is supposed to be doing. But having a guy like C.J. takes the pressure off that as well.”

Since 2008, the Eskimos have had just two running backs rush for 1,000 yards. Jerome Messam had 1,057 yards in 2011 and Arkee Whitlock notched 1,293 in 2009.

The Eskimos don’t necessarily need Gable to replicate that, but the benefits of having a running threat not named Reilly are obvious.

“I know I can get 1,000 yards easily if I get the ball enough,” Gable said. “I’ve just never had the opportunity to. Here and now, I’m getting that opportunity to show what I can do.

“I think every back wants to get 1,000 yards. That’s still the mark as a running back. That’s the thing. You want to get over 1,000 or you’re not working – at least that’s what I feel like.”



14 Comments on C.J. Gable could give Mike Reilly what he’s been missing: a 1,000-yard rusher

  1. Nope. Watched CJ since he started with the cats. Austin said he was the best. He had great flashes but I never saw it and was not disappointed when they traded him. I’m glad the Cats got John White, you will see him on thurs. Not to mention Timmis and erlington.
    Go cats.

  2. He’s a good running back, but just didn’t fit in with the Cats and wasn’t as successful there as he is in Edmonton. He did have his flashes in moments in Hamilton, however, Masoli was far better at rushing in the Hammer than he was in his time there. CJ has a good thing going in Edmonton and should keep it up. Hamilton shouldn’t really on John White, because of his injuries, however, I believe that Hamilton has a good thing going with their Canadian Backs. Strange, however because Erlington tomorrow is put as a slotback behind Jones. Either both teams aren’t struggling on the ground at the moment, and has been doing pretty well as far as standings go.

    • Above, auto-correct mistake, I meant rely, not really.

    • Gable’s injuries certainly played a role limiting his opportunities during large chunks of his years in Hamilton, but the other big limitation was Austin’s stubborn insistence on NOT using his running back to run the ball. He averaged something like 8 carries a game, and not much more in the two seasons he played most of them.

      Given more carries, I think he’d have had a lot more yards and probably some big games for the Cats. Dude just never got the chances, and when he did they were often short yardage situations.

      Edmonton is using him effectively. If he can avoid injury, he’ll have a great season.

      • Cat Fan // July 4, 2018 at 11:31 pm //

        It would be interesting to get the average. The games I looked at where people complained Gable was useless were five or six.

        Wiki says that in his second year that was cut short by injury, he had 30 carries in six games, giving a 5 carry per game average.

        2017 is misleading as the average is 8.2 but under the Jones offense, his carries went up. If one takes the Jones offense carries out, the average is more like 6.4 carries.

        The other problem with so few running plays is that the O line gets rusty as they spending so much time doing something different.

    • Cat Fan // July 4, 2018 at 11:16 pm //

      ??? … unless the RB is having a superlative game, I don’t know of many that are going to put up stellar numbers with five carries in a game like Gable usually had in the Austin offense.

      Timmis had six carries in game one then seventeen in game two and eleven in game three.

      RedBlacks fans were repeatedly telling me they were happy Austin was sticking to passes so their defense could ignore the run.

      • However this resulted in Masoli running the ball a lot. It was unexpected and it worked. I can remember thats how the Cats did as well as they did a couple years ago on the eastern final.

        • Cat Fan // July 5, 2018 at 1:20 pm //

          I’ll have to find the stats for the ESF and EDF.

          What I am seeing for 2016 and later is that the RB (typically Gable) had double or triple the carries Masoli did. That’s regardless of whether Masoli was starter or not.

          When Gable is getting seven carries and Masoli is getting one carry – I don’t think one can say much about how good or bad a runner either one is.

  3. The reason that the Eskimos haven’t had a 1000 yard back the past 5-6 years was because they didn’t have a back that stayed healthy for a whole season. Shakir Bell did 633 yards on 10 games in 2015, and John White has 852 yards in 9 games in 2014 and 886 yards in 13 games in 2016. If either back could have played even 15-16 games in a season they are 1000 yard backs. The durability at that position has been the issue.

  4. Red&White Forever // July 4, 2018 at 11:18 pm //

    Forget a 1000 yard rusher, Reilly needs a defence.

    • Cat Fan // July 4, 2018 at 11:32 pm //

      Not sure it’s so much a defense as fewer injuries. It seems the injury bug that the Cats had under Austin has found a new home.

  5. Evil Empire // July 5, 2018 at 1:31 pm //

    Once the Offence got rolling in the last game, it was a beautiful thing. If they can play for a whole 60 mins, the way they played in about the last 35 mins, or so. There’s nobody that can beat them. Once the Defence can get healthy, and if they can stay healthy. There is no team that would be able to score enough points against them to beat them. Some ppl can’t seem to tell the difference between a bad Defence, as compared to one with many injury issues. That’s good though…Keep believing they are crappy. I hope opposition players, and coaches are as myopic as some of the fans I’ve seen in here.

    IF the Eskimo offence is clicking. And IF the Defence can get, and stay healthy. As long as the ST unit plays decently. I like the Eskimos chances against anybody.

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