Ticats look to Williams for extra special effort
Wide receiver Chris Williams has been relatively quiet against the Argos this season, something that will have to change if his Tiger-Cats are to avoid a fifth straight loss. (Ernest Doroszuk/QMI Agency)
For all of the great things Chris Williams has accomplished this season, burning the Argonauts defence with an array of outstanding catches is not among them.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats special teams star, who seems to return every football that he collects for a touchdown, has had just two receptions in two games against Toronto, despite his spot in third place in the Canadian Football League with 704 receiving yards through nine games.
The Ticats have talked since Monday’s Labour Day Classic loss versus the Argos about making tweaks in their rematch on Saturday at the Rogers Centre — small adjustments are really all they can attempt in a short work week — and Williams has been part of that discussion. The Hamilton offence as a whole has been, in fact.
“They have played me pretty much the same way both times,” Williams said on Friday. “They like to man up, send a lot of guys and pressure the quarterback and make you think and react quickly, get you a little uncomfortable.”
Henry Burris acknowledged there was a level of uncertainty during the 33-30 fall to the Argos on Labour Day. As much as he was encouraged by the points total, Burris figured the Ticats left some points on the field as Hamilton lost for the fourth game in a row.
How can he change that on Saturday, and if successful, result in getting the ball in Williams’ hands more often?
“One of the things I don’t think I used enough last game was my feet,” Burris said. “The problem is finding the running game before they actually get to me. If I can have an opportunity to use my feet to put some pressure on their defence and take them out of man to man (scrambling) is a way to make that happen.”
The Argos have been sharp against Burris, holding him to just 25 completions on 57 attempts in two games for a 43.9% success rate. In games against the rest of the CFL, Burris has completed 68.8% of his passes.
Burris will try to avoid losing five consecutive starts for just the second time in his CFL career. He’ll have another bona fide target at his disposal, as receiver Bakari Grant is expected to return from a hand injury. But running back Chevon Walker, hurt on Monday, will not play and will be replaced by Avon Cobourne, a fine blocker who should bring another positive wrinkle to the offence. Centre Marwan Hage, also hurt and on the one-game injured list, will have his spot taken by Tim O’Neill.
While Burris wants to increase his mobility, the Ticats defence will be looking to make life for Argos quarterback Ricky Ray a little more challenging.
“One (desired change) is about blitzing more,” linebacker Renaud Williams said. “Me and (Jamall Johnson) — that is one of our strengths. Get us more involved, get the O-line thinking we are coming even if we are not. Blitzing more, that’s something you can add.”
If the Ticats aren’t in a position where their proposed tweaks absolutely have to work, they are bumping up against it. At 3-6, their playoff lives would be put in further danger with another loss against their arch-rivals.
“It’s about finishing games,” Renaud Williams said. “Guys are not losing confidence, guys are not getting down. Guys are frustrated, but confidence is still high because we know we have done it and been dominant for three quarters. We have to figure out that last quarter.
“You are upset when you lose, but it is more frustration and trying to put a finger on it. As a team we know we are really close.”
There is half a season to be contested, but the Ticats realize they can’t keep squandering chances to win and expect to be playing past Nov. 1, when their regular season ends with another game in Toronto.
“We’re that wounded dog in a corner right now,” Burris said. “We’re the team that is angry. We are getting to the point where we are almost a desperate team. We definitely need a win.”