Argos looking to run with it

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM ET

In football years, John Avery was a much younger man when the Argos previously had a 1,000-yard runner.

Ricky Williams? He still had his dreadlocks and was a year away from his first season with the Miami Dolphins, the one where he led the NFL with 1,853 yards.

Yes, it has been five full seasons since then-Argo Michael Jenkins led the CFL with 1,484 yards in 2001. A total of 23 players from eight other CFL teams have topped the 1,000-yard benchmark total since, but nary an Argo.

So what gives?

"It hasn't been our forte per se the past couple of years here," Avery said of the Argos ground attack. "The running game has been non-existent.

"Not because we didn't have running backs, but we just refuse to go out and run plays."

Williams led the team with 526 yards this year, but missed seven games because of injury. Avery, who had 432 yards in his abbreviated seven-game season, is also the most-recent Argo to top 100 yards in a game, but you have to go back to October 2004 to find it.

The pair is of the opinion that production could and should improve in the CFL East final against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Sunday.

The Argos running game has shown signs of busting loose. During the first half of a 24-20 loss to Montreal in the regular-season finale, Williams and Avery combined for 112 yards.

Got away

"Ricky Williams is probably one of the top three running backs on this earth and I'm not far behind him," Avery said.

"We got away from it. Other teams are putting the ball on the ground against us in the fourth quarter. We need to be doing the same thing.

"Running backs get stronger as the game goes on. That's the way it works."

Circumstances -- namely penalties and the clock-eating Montreal ground game -- led to the abandonment in the second half last week. But Williams believes the heavier workload showed what can be accomplished with a firm commitment to the run.

"We just called more running plays," Williams said. "We did a good job blocking up front. We made a point last week in practice to really work on running the ball."

The challenge now is to crank it up against a stout Bombers run defence, one that owned Williams in the regular season. In two games against the 'Peg, Williams was held to just 20 yards on 17 carries. Avery ran for 90 yards on 14 carries in his only meeting against the Bombers in August, mainly because his quickness allowed him to exploit the outside.

Like many on the Argos offence, Avery is growing weary of explaining the unit's struggles.

"The hardest thing is to come out and deal with the media asking about the running game when I don't get the opportunity to run the ball," Avery said. "When we run the ball, our offence is pretty convincing."


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