Heading into 2014, Cary Williams has one number stuck in his head: 32.
That was where the Eagles ranked as a team in pass defense last season. Last in the league, allowing 289.8 yards per game.
“Look at the numbers, we were the [32nd] pass-ranked defense,” Williams said after Monday’s practice during OTAs. “To me that’s not very impressive. I don’t think that’s impressive to anybody out here. We have to do better than that. We have to improve.”
Williams has reason to expect they will.
Defensive coordinator Billy Davis’ 2014 unit will have a good mix of veterans and newcomers in the secondary, including free-agent signee Malcolm Jenkins, who has already received high praise from coaches and teammates (see story).
“I think it’s going to be a good defense,” Williams said. “As a matter of fact, we’re going to be much improved from last season. We’ve got guys who have been in the system now for a year now and have that under their belt. We understand what’s expected of us and what we need to do.”
There’s already one noticeable difference, and that is Williams’ presence at OTAs. His absence last year to be with his family and check on his sconces was heavily criticized and was just one part of a shaky start. He was booted from practice with the Patriots for fighting and then questioned whether anyone feared the Eagles' D.
All that came before he played a game.
But he impressed in the Eagles' Week 1 win over the Redskins with an interception and a sack, and earlier this offseason pledged to think before he speaks.
“Last year was last year,” the 29-year-old said. “We’re over that. Coach [Chip Kelly] understood and my teammates understood that once we started playing that first season, that first game, all of those things went away.
“I’m here now and I’m ready to start off on the right foot.”
A seventh-round pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2008, Williams, who figures to start at corner opposite Bradley Fletcher, has two years remaining on his three-year contract. His first season with the Eagles was solid; he finished with three interceptions, and the Eagles ranked eighth in the league with 19.
They finished an impressive 10-6 in Kelly's first season -- and did so despite a 4-4 home record. The Eagles lost their first four, won their next four but saw their season end with a tight playoff loss to the Saints at the Linc.
“I just think that everybody is hungry,” Williams said. “I think we left a bad taste in our mouth losing at home -- we lost a lot of games at home. Those are the things we want to right this season. Being at practice is important, especially for establishing relationships with guys, establishing a camaraderie.
“It starts here in OTAs. We just have to continue to work and doing what we’ve been doing, and hopefully everything will run right for us this season.”