Cary Williams still thinks about the horse collar tackle. He replays it in his mind and believes he could have taken down Darren Sproles without drawing that costly penalty. He thinks about instances where he allowed a running back to drag him for extra yards rather than just taking out his legs. He thinks about the loss to the Saints, and other missteps along the way, and it bothers him.
“Every season, every team wants to focus on winning the Super Bowl, and when you fall short it leaves a nasty taste in your mouth. So I think everybody that’s here is hungry. Everybody here is motivated, everybody that’s here wants to win. The way that we went out last year is something that we couldn’t necessarily be proud of,” said Williams. “There are some plays that left a bad taste in my mouth and there are several guys that feel the same way.”
There are some positives to draw from the defense's performance last season. Playing in a brand new scheme with some pieces that weren't natural fits, Billy Davis' unit finished second in the league in takeaways (31), behind only the Seahawks. The defense put together a nine-week stretch where it held opponents to 21 points or less.
Williams wasn't exactly in the mood to pat his group on the back or gush about potential, however, when addressing the media after practice earlier this week. Asked how good this defense can be with a year of experience under its belt, Williams offered an answer that was probably different from what the reporter was expecting.
"I think we can be better than 32," he said. "To me that's not very impressive. I don't think it's impressive to anybody out here."
The "32" refers to the team's ranking in pass yards allowed last season -- that would be dead last in the NFL. The Eagles yielded 4,636 yards through the air in all, or 290 yards per game. [The Seahawks, in contrast, allowed 172 yards per game.] It's hard to look past that as a defensive back, so you can forgive Williams if he wasn't willing to pound his chest. That's not to say that he isn't encouraged by what has gone on so far this offseason.
"We have to do better than that, we have to improve, and I think we're on the right path with that," he said. "We have guys that have come in and give us great depth, guys that will come in and compete and make everybody better, and I think we're on the right path."
Cornerback depth was an issue last season. This year, Nolan Carroll and Jaylen Watkins have been added to the mix. How does Williams view the competition?
"To be honest with you, I don't expect anything to be given to me. I'm going to work my tail off to get it. If it's going to be a battle, it's going to be a battle. Just know that the veteran is going to play his ass off. It's never a backing down situation with me. I give those guys all the kudos and credit for getting themselves here and understand that they have worked their tails off just as well as I did to get to this point. But I'm here, so you're going to have to take it from me."
Williams missed a good portion of spring practices last year as he tended to some off-field matters. (Obligatory sconce reference upcoming.) With his house now in order -- both figuratively and from a sconce perspective (there it is) -- he has been a regular at these OTAs. And it's not just him. The attendance rate has been very strong for these voluntary workouts.
Why is that?
"I just think that everybody is hungry," Williams said.