In the CFL, Labour Day is often referred to as the unofficial start of the season because rosters have had enough time to be properly judged, the changing season ushers in football weather and the inevitable cuts in the NFL provide teams a talent pool to draw.
The sky isn’t falling in the Hammer, but a loss on Thursday in Montreal will likely trigger change as the Labour Day classic against the Argos await.
Nowhere is the pressure greater than on defence, a unit Williams continues to support, despite back-to-back losses when the Ticats could not stop Jon Cornish along the ground in a home setback to Calgary and could not defend Joey Elliott’s aerial game in a road loss to Winnipeg.
“We got to be more accountable,’’ Williams began on Tuesday, Hamilton’s final full practice before they play the host Als. “We got too many players, regardless if they’re banged up or not.
“There’s a sense of urgency in the locker room, especially on the defensive side of the ball. We got to do better. Teams are only as good as their defence. You got to be able to stop people and if we can’t do that we’re going to be in trouble.”
Whatever ails may plague a team, whatever issues are allowed to surface, they’ll all be expunged in the afterglow of a win.
All will be forgotten, but for now it’s hard to forget regrettable plays that yield points.
Offensively, there’s no way the Ticats can beat any team if six turnovers are produced, even an inferior offence such as the Bombers.
In Montreal, there’s no better offensive team heading into this week.
Williams knows what’s at stake in Montreal and what damage Als quarterback Anthony Calvillo is capable of inflicting if the Ticats don’t bring a physical edge.
When he reads body language among his teammates and checks the pulse of his team, Williams is encouraged.
For obvious reasons, it’s of little consequence if the Ticats defence does not show improvement in Montreal.
Regression, afterall, must result in change, especially with time between Labour Day and the home-and-home set against the Argos.
“Guys are a little testy,’’ said Williams. “Guys are hostile and angry. It’s great. It’s always great to play when you’re angry and upset. Everyone is made right now. What we need to do is get back to playing sound football, outhit people and execute our scheme.”
As Williams can well attest, the Ticats have been deficient on defence, a slide that must be corrected.
“We took a step back the last two weeks, in my opinion’’ he said. “It’s nothing they’re (opponents) doing. We’re hurting ourselves on defence.
“And it’s not the scheme. We just got to make plays when we can.”
When the Als visited the Hammer on July 21, the defence set the tone early by forcing Calvillo to throw into coverage on his first attempt, a pass Williams intercepted and would return to Montreal’s eight-yard line that soon led to a touchdown and an early lead.
“We want to get on them fast,’’ said Williams of Thursday’s rematch with the Als. “You want to be the hammer, not the nail. It’s very important to come out like we did last time, set the tone and set up some scores for our offence.”
With Andy Fantuz back and Henry Burris unlikely to fumble the ball like he did last week, Hamilton’s offence should be fine in Montreal, a unit that will certainly feel Avon Cobourne’s presence as the veteran tailback makes his season debut against his former team.
But it’s on defence where the Ticats must answer the bell.
Giguere can go home again
Football life for Sam Giguere will come full circle on Thursday, a night when many of his family and friends will be in attendance at McGill Stadium.
For the first time as a pro, Giguere will play in his native Quebec at a site that’s very familiar with Hamilton’s speedy wideout.
“My last college game as at McGill,’’ beamed Giguere. “It’ll be kind of neat to go back. It feels like I’ve come full circle.”
Giguere played his university football at Sherbrooke before embarking on his pro football path, a road that took him to the NFL.
As a kid growing up in Quebec, Giguere drew motivation from watching the Als and envisioned the day when he’d be playing pro football.
“It’s been five years since I last played in Quebec,’’ he said. “They’ll be plenty of family and friends (on Thursday).”
On the field, Giguere’s return to three-down football has been a mixed bag.
“It’s still a work in progress,’’ he said. “I’m happy with some of the things I did, very unhappy in how I did other things. Obviously, there’s a lot of room for improvement.
“At the same time, I feel more and more comfortable with the system and with the guys around me.”