AJ hit the holes

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

Amid the incompletions, dropped balls and miss-run routes, AJ Harris stood out.

Not as the running back who returned to claim the starting position with the Edmonton Eskimos after being cut at training camp, but as an effective receiver coming out of the backfield, capable of turning short completions into huge gains.

"They were taking away a lot of stuff downfield," said Eskimos quarterback Ricky Ray. "So it was coming down to A.J. and he was able to get big chunks of yards for us. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough."

Harris caught 11 passes for 147 yards in Friday's 38-33 loss to the Calgary Stampeders at Commonwealth Stadium. He was by far the team's most effective receiver on a club loaded with talented playmakers.

"We just stuck with what was working," Harris said. "Our offence is very potent, we used different players in different positions and we try out new stuff every game. (Friday) I was effective out of the backfield and we just kept going with it."

Heading into the contest, the best receiving game the rookie had to that point was against the B.C. Lions in Week 7, when he caught nine passes for 97 yards.

Last week in Calgary, he was limited to four catches for 30 yards before a calf injury took him out of the contest.

EFFECTIVE

"He's quite effective coming out of the backfield catching the ball and gaining additional yardage," Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia said of Harris. "I thought he was effective when he was able to do that (Friday)."

Harris was one of the few bright spots for the Eskimos is their first home loss of the season.

The otherwise explosive aerial game was kept in check by the Stampeder, and the Eskimos didn't do themselves many favours by dropping a number of passes.

"It's so mind-boggling and so out of character for a team that's not only made a ton of catches, but converted some of those plays as far as trying to get some additional yardage," Maciocia said. "So it was pretty disappointing."

Regardless, Harris proved to be an effective weapon coming out of the backfield.

In the second quarter he took a dump pass from Ray and scrambled 39 yards up the field, blowing by a Stampeders defender in the process. He took another swing pass for 23 yards in the fourth quarter.

"It's one of those things they told me before, you have to be able to catch the ball and do something after with it," Harris said. "I'm just glad I could help out."

STRUGGLED

Unfortunately for the Eskimos, while Harris was effective catching the ball out of the backfield, the team struggled to put together a running game. They were only able to amass 53 yards on the ground, with Ray earning 12 and fullback Mathieu Bertrand gaining five.

Against the Stamps on Labour Day, the Eskimos ran for 120 yards.

"I was a little disappointed when we had second and two, second and three and we were getting stopped when we tried to run the ball," Maciocia said.

"But you have to give a lot of credit to the guys on the other side of the ball. They are all professional, they get paid. They practice hard and watch film and they are competitors."

With four days between games, the Eskimos didn't have a lot of time to add any new wrinkles to the offensive game plan. Harris was pressed into action by the Stamps ability to cover the Eskimos receivers downfield.

"Definitely, that's how I got out most of the time," Harris said. "We have such a deep threat because we have such great receivers and I am just able to sneak in between the linemen and sneak out when I can if I have no one blitzing."


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