Running back C.J. Gable made a huge impression in his debut with the Edmonton Eskimos on Monday, showing he is everything quarterback Mike Reilly and general manager Brock Sunderland hoped he would be.
Obtained from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Oct. 2, Gable ran for 111 yards and a touchdown – he added a receiving touchdown as well – to help the Eskimos snap a six-game losing streak with a 42-24 win at Montreal.
“He’s everything I hoped he would be,” Reilly said of the team’s latest in a long string of running backs this season. “He’s a true pro. You saw that last (game). We were playing in a game where that ball was like a greased pig.
“Come out on your first carry, run a really hard run and take a hit, guy puts his helmet on the ball and it pops out, they score. That’s something that if you’re not mentally tough, puts you down and out for the game. But he ends with more than 100 yards, has a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown. Chewed up the clock in the fourth quarter for us.”
Getting 22 handoffs from Reilly was a pleasant change for Gable, who averaged only eight carries in the nine games he played for Hamilton this season.
“That was good. They gave me a lot of touches and I fed off of that,” Gable said after Thursday’s practice in preparation for Saturday’s home game against the Toronto Argonauts. “It was a different feeling. It was good to get the ball. I was in a groove and the kept giving it to me. ”
When Sunderland obtained Gable, a two-time eastern all-star and 2013 Most Outstanding Rookie, he saw him as a proven back to fill the void caused by the latest injury to an Eskimos running back, Travon Van.
“He’s a great runner, good vision, good hands, good route runner, a proven pro,” Sunderland said. “Great in pass protection knows who to pick up and when, which is good, as important as willingness.
“When he’s healthy and on his game I think he’s in the conversation as one of the best runners in the league.”
The Eskimos (8-6) don’t necessarily need him to be the best runner as much as they need him to stay healthy and stabilize their injury-prone running game.
Having averaged nearly six yards a carry throughout his CFL career, Gable is the eighth running back the Eskimos have used this season. The third to rush for 100 yards in a game and the first since Game 5.
“He’s a guy we’re lucky to have,” said Reilly. “He’s very quiet, shows up for work and we don’t have to teach him a whole lot. He’s got everything down. Things happened in practice and it’s like we didn’t talk about that look but he knew what to do.”
Whether it was carrying the ball, running a passing route or blocking, Gable fit right in quickly.
It’s something Gable says he was taught in college.
“In college coach taught us never be a one-dimensional back,” said Gable. “Do more than one thing because if you can’t someone else will.
“And Edmonton’s offence complements things I do and I’m really comfortable in this offence.”
Edmonton comes into the game tied with Saskatchewan for third place in the CFL West division. The Eskimos can secure at least a cross-over playoff berth with a win on Saturday.
Toronto (7-8) leads the East Division, one point ahead of Ottawa (6-9-1). The Argonauts can clinch a playoff berth with a win, and the East title with a victory and an Ottawa loss at Saskatchewan.