Rookie Williams a key cog

FRAN ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:00 PM ET

The Hammer hasn’t seen a dynamic player with big-play capabilities since the days of Earl Winfield.

When Earl the Pearl was hauling in passes and returning kickoffs and punts for touchdowns, he was riding shotgun on offence with Tony Champion, the two key cogs who led the Ticats to a berth in the 1989 Grey Cup, a game for the ages.

Chris Williams has the potential to be as good as Winfield, but he’s certainly had his moments of turning a routine pass into a long gain.

On Wednesday, Williams was given the nod as the East’s nominee for top rookie in the CFL.

In the West, Edmonton linebacker J.C. Sherritt earned the honor.

Williams’ big-play capability looms as a major issue for the Als to contend with as Montreal plays host to Sunday’s Eastern final against the visiting Ticats.

There are many reasons why Montreal isn’t as dominant compared to recent teams, one of the most glaring being its secondary.

It’s a unit that yields big plays, a unit that is short in experience and one Hamilton must capitalize by going deep to Williams.

While grateful for the East nominee, Williams’ focus is on Sunday, as it should be.

“We know what’s coming this week,’’ Williams said. “We know we got to be ready.

“We’re playing a good team on the road and this will be game No. 6 against them. We definitely know them and they definitely know us. It’s going to be a battle.”

Williams is expecting Montreal’s banged-up secondary to mix up its coverage.

“It comes down to executing for 60 minutes and being ready to go longer,’’ added Williams.

Needless to say, execution is always vital, but it’s even more important when playing on the road in a hostile environment.

Veteran slotback Dave Stala has seen the rookie Williams evolve into Hamilton’s big-play receiver, an evolution that led to Arland Bruce’s trade to B.C. earlier in the season.

“Chris Williams is a special player,’’ said Stala. “When the ball is in his hands, good things happen.”

An effective Williams will force Montreal to spread its defence, which in theory will allow Stala and Bakari Grant, a big boundary target, to work underneath routes.

Toss in a healthy Marcus Thigpen and Avon Cobourne and there’s potential.

That’s assuming the good Ticats bother showing up.

“If we hit our spots, we’ll be fine,’’ Stala said of executing the proper routes. “It’s really about us and not about them (Als).”


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