Cary Williams: Eagles' D will be 'much improved'


Cary Williams: Eagles' D will be 'much improved'

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.”

Return TD earns Josh Huff NFC Special Teams Player of the Week

Return TD earns Josh Huff NFC Special Teams Player of the Week

One big play earned Josh Huff an award. 

The Eagles' kick returner has been named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after taking a second-quarter kick 98 yards for a touchdown on Sunday. 

Huff's kick return gave the Eagles their first lead (8-3) over the Vikings in their eventual 21-10 win at the Linc. 

During the return, Huff ran through kicker Blair Walsh, the first Viking to make contact with him, then flipped into the end zone from the 2-yard line. 

“It’s just something that happens,” Huff said of the flip on Sunday. “Everybody says I should have stuck the landing, but I’m not a gymnast.”

Huff's season as a receiver had been somewhat disappointing before Sunday's game. But against the Vikings, he caught four passes for 39 yards, including a couple that went for first downs. And, of course, he had the big special teams play that swung momentum and earned him a special shout-out from Doug Pederson in the head coach's speech to the team after the game. 

Huff's average of 38 yards per kick return is first in the NFL among players with at least five returns. 

The kick return touchdown is the second of Huff's career. He returned one 107 yards against against the Titans on the first play of the game when he was a rookie. He was also named the conference's Special Teams Player of the Week for that return. 

The award makes Huff the first Eagle to win the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week since Darren Sproles in Week 3 last year. 

The Eagles are the only team in the NFL that has returned a kickoff for a touchdown this season ... and they have two. Wendell Smallwood returned one the previous week. This is the first time in franchise history the Eagles have returned a kickoff for a touchdown in consecutive games. 

“It’s super cool,” Smallwood said on Sunday night. “Now teams have to pick their poison. They can’t go away from one. They can’t say they’re not going to kick to Smallwood, then they kick to Huff and he takes it. I think we’re going to get a lot of teams’ attention.”

Report: Eagles make inquiry about Bears WR Alshon Jeffery

Report: Eagles make inquiry about Bears WR Alshon Jeffery

The Eagles could be looking for a bigger name outside.

In need of a deep threat — and reportedly in talks about a trade for 49ers wideout Torrey Smith — the Eagles are interested in Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and attempting to make a move for the 2013 Pro Bowler, according to a report Tuesday night by Benjamin Allbright of Mile High Sports Radio.

We followed up with Allbright, who clarified the Eagles simply made an inquiry.

Jeffery, much more of a do-it-all, dynamic wide receiver than the one-dimensional Smith, is 26 years old and can become a free agent at season's end. He'll warrant good money, but would make the Eagles better in more ways than one compared to Smith.

The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder put up 89 catches for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013, followed by 85 catches, 1,133 yards receiving and 10 scores in 2014.

This season, he has 520 yards receiving and has yet to find the end zone playing for the quarterback-challenged Bears, who are 1-6 and more than likely thinking about next season.