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

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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.”

Now 22/1 to win Super Bowl, Eagles also the NFC East favorite

Now 22/1 to win Super Bowl, Eagles also the NFC East favorite

The Eagles crushed a Super Bowl contender on Sunday at the Linc. And Vegas took notice.

According to Bovada, the Eagles' odds to win the Super Bowl went from 33/1 to 22/1. Just nine teams have shorter odds to win the Super Bowl. The Patriots are tops at 15/4, followed by the Packers (8/1) and the team the Eagles beat, the Steelers (9/1).

With the win, the Eagles also became the favorite to win the NFC East, going from 11/4 to 2/1. They're followed by the Cowboys and Giants (both at 11/5) and last year's division champs, Washington, is at 6/1.

The Eagles are also 12/1 to win the NFC.

Of course, the biggest story for the Eagles this season has been the emergence of rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. He had his first 300-yard passing game Sunday and was named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week. His odds to win MVP went from 50/1 to 33/1. Those are the same odds as Drew Brees and Eli Manning.

Meanwhile, former Eagles quarterback and current Minnesota Viking Sam Bradford went from 50/1 to 25/1 to win MVP.

While Wentz's MVP odds shortened, his odds to win Rookie of the Year actually got longer, going from 8/5 to 7/4. That could have something to do with the odds of Ezekiel Elliot (7/4), Dak Prescott (5/1) and Sterling Shepard (7/1) all improving.

NFL Notes: Texans place J.J. Watt on IR; Dez Bryant misses practice

NFL Notes: Texans place J.J. Watt on IR; Dez Bryant misses practice

HOUSTON — The Houston Texans placed star defensive end J.J. Watt on injured reserve Wednesday and his return this season is in doubt.

Coach Bill O'Brien said Watt had re-injured his back and putting him on IR was the best thing for his long-term health. The team was still exploring the injury and it's unclear if it will require surgery. Watt is not expected back before December, if at all.

Watt, who has won Defensive Player of the Year for the past two seasons, missed training camp and Houston's four preseason games after surgery in July to repair a herniated disk in his back. He started each of the team's three regular-season games and got hurt again Thursday against the Patriots.

Watt tweeted a statement that did not provide details on his injury. It began with: "Adversity sucks. Your attitude towards it doesn't have to. I will be back."

"This won't be fun, but it is necessary in order for me to return to 100 percent and play at the level that I am capable of playing at," the post said. "Everybody deals with adversity in their lives, many much worse than what I'm going through. I have great people around me and I appreciate the thoughts and well wishes from all of you. I am looking forward to the fight back to the top and to the next time that I can step back on that field with my brothers to play the game that I love."

It's a major blow for Houston, which selected Watt with the 11th overall pick in the 2011 draft. Watt has played 83 consecutive games for the Texans despite various injuries, including torn core muscles and a broken hand last season.

This was a tough offseason for Watt, who had surgery in January to repair five torn core muscles before going under the knife again in July to repair his back.

Cowboys: Dez Bryant has hairline fracture in knee
FRISCO, Texas — Dez Bryant has a slight hairline fracture in a bone in his right knee, though Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett says the receiver might not miss a game.

Bryant didn't practice Wednesday, three days after getting hurt in a win over Chicago, and the same day the team got back results of an MRI.

Garrett said he has been told that some players never miss time with that kind of injury.

"We've had players with this kind of injury who missed no time in the past and other players who have missed up to a week or more than that," Garrett said. "We don't think it's something that will keep him out for an extended period of time. It will be a day-by-day, week-by-week situation."

Bryant injured the knee on his first catch on the opening series against the Bears, but came back in the first quarter. He caught his first touchdown of the season in the fourth quarter of the 31-17 win.

Bryant missed seven games last year after breaking his foot in the opener. He also dealt with knee and ankle injuries last season.

The 2014 All-Pro went down awkwardly on his right leg when he was tackled by Bears linebacker Christian Jones on the second play of the game.

"He's taking it day by day and I think he feels better than he felt after the game, but again he doesn't feel good enough to practice today," Garrett said. "That's certainly an indication of where he is."

Chiefs: Charles closer to returning
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles could make his season debut Sunday night at Pittsburgh, though coach Andy Reid acknowledged that it would depend on how he practices this week.

Charles has not played since tearing the ACL in his right knee in Week 5 last season.

The Chiefs have the week off following the Steelers game, so holding the four-time Pro Bowl running back out would essentially give him two more weeks. But conversely, getting him onto the field for a taste of action would also mean extra time to recover afterward.

The Chiefs have been cautious in getting Charles onto the field. Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West have proven to be solid replacements over the past season.

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