08/02/2013 08:29 EDT | Updated 10/02/2013 05:12 EDT

Alouettes look to get offence moving again after coach Hawkins fired

MONTREAL - The Montreal Alouettes are hoping things will get back to normal after the shock firing of head coach Dan Hawkins only five games into the CFL season.

That includes winning games and getting their powerful offence back on track.

General manager Jim Popp, who stepped in as head coach of the 2-3 team, was directing traffic on the field on Friday at practice a day after the change.

"We're trying to emphasize that we're going to have a new vision now from Jim Popp and it's the players' responsibility to take ownership of that vision and make sure it's carried out on and off the field," quarterback Anthony Calvillo said.

"The biggest thing for us is we know what type of team we should be. We truly believe now that with Jim in charge the coaches are going to be able to do their thing, and teach us. That's what I'm looking forward to."

Some changes came right away. The short workout, the team's first since players returned from a bye week, was fast paced. Popp had Calvillo march the ball down field while calling his own plays, which the veteran can expect to do more of that from now on.

"I'm used to directing people," Popp, who stepped in to coach for the third time in his 18 seasons as GM. "It feels normal.

"But it's not about me. It's just getting everything organized."

The knock on Hawkins, who got the job despite having no CFL experience and having never coached pro players, was that he ignored the advice of his staff and players and made major changes to an offence that was one of the league's best last year under Marc Trestman, now coaching the Chicago Bears.

The result was confusion and a marked lack of creativity on the field, although it had begun to turn around with Hawkins' adviser, Doug Berry, having more input in recent weeks.

"Going back to training camp, there were things being installed that wasn't the typical offence we run with Anthony," said Popp. "We thought it would be an enhancer, but it became most of what we were doing.

"It's a combination of things, but it starts with the head coach."

There was question after the shakeup of whether offensive co-ordinator Mike Miller would stay on after he was given a reduced role. Berry is now acting as offensive co-ordinator, although without the title, while Miller will be mainly the quarterbacks coach.

But Miller was on the field, and it looks like he will stay.

"I'm excited to be here," said the former OC of the Arizona Cardinals. "I like the guys I work with and I certainly like the players.

"I go to work and I can perform in any role."

It helped that he got an emphatic vote of confidence from Calvillo.

"Doug is now our voice on offence, but I'm very happy Mike's going to stick around," the 20-year veteran said. "He has a lot of knowledge and I truly believe he'll be able to grow and make us better."

Berry, who was Montreal's OC before jumping to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for a three-year stint as head coach, was the one left in an awkward spot.

But his extensive CFL experience should help steady what had been a badly listing ship. He will try to get the passing game back to its old self.

"The awkwardness is not necessarily with Mike, it's being in the position I'm in," said Berry. "It's not why I came here.

"I came here to hopefully get something next year, not this year."

Now he has to work quickly to get the offence moving with the toughest stretch of the schedule looming.

In the next six weeks, Montreal will play Grey Cup champion Toronto three times, the B.C. Lions twice and league-leading Saskatchewan once. It starts Thursday night at home against the Argonauts.

"It's a short period of time because we missed training camp as far as I'm concerned," said Berry. "We've got to get caught up. But we are on the right track."

The coaching change took the players by surprise.

"I was running errands back home in Windsor before I flew back and a friend texted me," said tackle Josh Bourke. "I was a bit taken aback.

"We were 2-3 but it looked like the offence was starting to play better. It's rare to see a coach let go coming off a win, so I was surprised, but that's the nature of the business."

Asked if the change was needed, Bourke said: "I'm not going to comment on that. I like coach Hawkins. I thought he was a good guy. That's for management to decide."

Running back Brandon Whitaker called it a shock.

"There'd been a lot of chatter about it in the media," he said. "Especially here in Montreal, everyone's so accustomed to fast starts and winning, so when we have a bit of adversity, people tend to freak out a bit.

"In the locker room, we felt fine. As far as the decision, it's out of our control."

Added receiver Jamel Richardson: "It's hard when you're trying to follow coach Trestman. We have a veteran group and we don't have time to learn. We have to win."

Whitaker stayed on the sidelines as he recovers from a shoulder injury suffered last week against Edmonton. He is unlikely to face Toronto and will be evaluated week to week.

Popp said Canadians Jerome Messam and Stephen Lumbala were ready to step in.

They also placed linebacker Jordan Verdone on the nine-game disabled list with a knee injury and added defensive lineman Scott Paxson to the practice roster.