Avery hitting his stride

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

WINNIPEG -- When first asked to stop the Argos running game this season, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers cut through the hype and stopped Ricky Williams in his tracks.

With John Avery once again the featured back as Williams recovers from a broken arm, the Bombers will be facing a different beast tonight at Canada Inns Stadium.

And not necessarily one that's easier to haul down.

"I think so because of the simple fact that he's all over the place," veteran Bombers linebacker Barrin Simpson said when asked if Avery is a tougher back to defend.

"He can turn something that's not there into a 30 or 40-yard run by cutting across the field and stuff like that. I've played against Avery since college. He's a change of pace guy.

"Ricky would be more classed as a power back. Ricky's not a jitter bug type running back. He's the kind of guy who is going to hit the hole for you right now and if it's there, he's gone. If it's not, he's not a stretch type runner."

STUFFED RICKY

In the first two meetings, Williams was stuffed for 14 and six yards respectively as the Argos lost 16-9 and 24-17.

"The running game they are going to be using should be different than the last time," Bombers coach Doug Berry said. "John Avery is a much different running back than Ricky Williams. I really respect John Avery. He's not only a threat to run, he's dangerous if they release him on the pass.

"But above all, they're committed to the running game now. It's not like you can just call defences to stop the pass."

Feeling healthy and able to handle a heavy workload, Avery is hitting the stride he hasn't shown since two seasons ago. As the featured back the past two games, he ran for 164 yards on 39 carries for a juicy 4.9 yards average. It has been his most productive two-game stretch since early in the 2004 season, an encouraging sign for the veteran.

"I'm hoping after this game I should be there," Avery said of getting up to top speed. "I've been struggling the last two weeks just trying to breathe. It takes a couple of games, especially when you've been on the sidelines all year long.

"It's like riding a bike sometimes. That's the only way to prepare -- to play in actual games."


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