At last, Jamel Richardson is piling up receiving yards like he did in his career-best 2011 campaign.
The Montreal Alouettes slotback, who set a CFL record with 12 games of more than 100 receiving yards last season, got his first two 100-plus performances of the current season in the club’s last two games.
“There ain’t no need to get off to a hot start,” Richardson said Thursday. “You need it for the post-season. As people die down, I get stronger.”
The 30-year-old broke the ice with 109 yards on three catches, including a 75-yard touchdown, in a 24-12 win in Toronto on Oct. 14.
He topped that with eight grabs for 161 yards in a 34-28 victory in Saskatchewan last weekend. He’ll try to make it three in a row when they Alouettes play host to the Edmonton Eskimos on Sunday.
His previous best this year was 91 yards on Aug. 1 against Winnipeg.
After amassing 1,777 yards on a league-high 112 receptions last season, Richardson mused about topping 2,000 in 2012, but it hasn’t worked out that way.
He had knee trouble early in the season and missed three games, and even when healthy found himself in double coverage much of the time. A few uncharacteristic dropped balls didn’t help.
And quarterback Anthony Calvillo was finding other receivers open, so balls that used to go to Richardson were now providing career-high yardage for S.J. Green and Brandon London.
“We’ve been calling lots of plays for (Richardson) the entire season and it’s just one of those things where I’ve been going to a different guy because of the defence,” said Calvillo. “Right now, teams are playing him man-to-man.
“Toronto bracketed him a bit, but Saskatchewan did not and it created opportunities for him. He did a great job of running routes and being physical like he did last year. You can tell he’s enjoying the moment right now and we have to continue to feed him the ball.”
The key for Richardson is that he is getting hot when the rest of the offence is being whacked by injuries.
Starting running back Brendon Whitaker and backup his Victor Anderson are both out, along with Green, who is out one more week with a concussion, and London, who is out for the year with a knee injury.
Richardson and Brian Bratton are the only two healthy veterans among the receivers, which has forced some adjustments to the game plan and the roster.
Bo Bowling, Lavasier Tuinei and Noel Devine have been in at receiver, while Canadian Eric Deslauriers is seeing more action and rookie fullback Patrick Lavoie is being used more out of the backfield.
“It’s very demanding because the verbiage we use is different,” added Calvillo. “It’ll be a tough week to make sure I know who is going to line up where.
“But our coaches have done a great job of adjusting to the personnel we have with the injuries we’ve had. That creates a different match-up for the (opponent’s) defence because now they have to worry about a three tight-end set with two receivers and all these other things.”
Before the Toronto game, Richardson said he wanted more passes to come his way. Calvillo has insisted he won’t force the ball through coverage to him, but will get it to the six-foot-three veteran when possible.
“I felt if I got the ball more I could help,” said Richardson. “Right now, the team’s leaning on me and I’m excited about it.
“Football’s fun for me right now. The team’s playing at a very high level. And I’m excited about the bye week we have coming up after clinching the East Division.”
The recent flurry left Richardson with 57 catches for 954 yards, only 46 yards short of a fifth straight 1,000-yard campaign.
Coach Marc Trestman is glad to see him step up.
“He’s been very productive the last two weeks,” Trestman said. “He’s got to continue to be productive and everybody around him has to continue to grow and get better.
“We don’t want to be a one dimensional throwing team. We have to continue to improve our offence because we have so many new guys working with AC right now.”
The 10-6 Alouettes clinched first place with the win in Toronto and didn’t let up in Saskatchewan. The Eskimos need a win to claim at least a cross-over playoff spot, which would eliminate Winnipeg and Hamilton.
Most of the talk this week was about fines levied against middle linebacker Shea Emry for a hit below the belt to Saskatchewan lineman Brendon Labatte, and to rush end John Bowman for publicly criticizing an opponent.
Emry, who missed practice Wednesday while his hearing with the CFL was conducted by phone, said he was relieved to escape suspension.
The team’s defence already took a hit this week with news that veteran Rod Davis would miss at least the final two regular season games with a foot injury.