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.”

Jeff Lurie: Condition of Roseman's promotion was to solidify personnel department

Jeff Lurie: Condition of Roseman's promotion was to solidify personnel department

PHOENIX -- Joe Douglas is a big, imposing man. 

As he's walked around lavish greenery at the Biltmore Hotel in Arizona at the annual league meetings this week, he's towered over most of the other NFL executives, including his boss, Howie Roseman.

Douglas is large in physical stature. His role within the Eagles organization seems to match.

"The hiring of Joe Douglas, I thought, was the pivotal moment of the last year," Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said on Tuesday night, speaking for the first time in over a year. 

Douglas was hired in May to head up the Eagles' personnel department, the result of a months-long search administered by Lurie, Roseman and senior advisor Tom Donahoe. 

Last year, when Lurie gave Roseman the power as the overseer of the entire football operations department, the new job came with one condition: He had to put together a top personnel department. 

That started with hiring Douglas. 

"One of the main things Howie and I discussed when he was going to be in the football operations role was he had to have a top-notch player personnel department," Lurie said. "Or we were going to find somebody that could find a great player personnel department. That was his responsibility."

To fulfill that request, Roseman went out and brought Douglas, who cut his teeth for years under greatly respected general manager Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore. Douglas brought with him Andy Weidl, who is now his second in command. 

While Lurie said he gets plenty of congratulations from general managers around the league about drafting Carson Wentz, he said he gets more about luring Douglas to Philly. And this offseason, the Eagles have seemingly made a concerted effort to put Douglas in the limelight. He sat on the stage dwarfing Roseman at a press conference earlier in March and has been plenty visible this week in Phoenix. 

Speaking for the first time since the Eagles were able to move up and draft Wentz at No. 2 last season, Lurie was effusive in his praise of Roseman. He marveled that Roseman was not only able to move up to draft Wentz, but also that he put together a contract for Sam Bradford that allowed him to be traded and then pulled off a move to get a first-round pick for him. 

But that part of the job has never been a knock on Roseman. 

For years, Roseman has shown himself to be an aggressive general manager and incredibly adept in all salary cap matters. But the big question about Roseman has been about his talent evaluation. Together, with Douglas, the two could potentially combine to be a complete general manager, capable of every aspect of the job. And not just capable, but at the top of the class. 

That’s the plan anyway. 

"The draft is going to be really built by Joe and the final decision will be made by Howie," he said. "But these guys are unbelievably collaborative. I haven’t seen anything like this. We have such trust in Joe that basically when that board's there, unless there's something extraordinary happens, it's going to be set by Joe and then we'll just make the final decision in case of anything. But that’s a great system, I think, and Doug will be very involved. The coaches will be very involved as usual, but there's obvious clarity on the decision-making."

This offseason, the Eagles have been publicly honest about the state of the franchise and Lurie didn't deviate from that on Tuesday night. While Lurie is now 65 and has seen his team in the Super Bowl just once, he understands the need to be patient. 

The Eagles hope they found their franchise quarterback last season. Now it's all about drafting the talent to put around him to make the team successful. That's why the condition that Roseman beef up the personnel department upon his promotion was such an important part of his new job. 

"You have to draft well, you have to have multiple drafts in a row, hopefully, where you surround that quarterback on all sides of the ball and that's the formula. It's not that complicated. It's hard to accomplish, but it's not that complicated," Lurie said. 

"As an owner, I have to be really patient and at the same time, very competitive. We'll make moves that will make us better this year, however, we won't make a move where it's going to cost us flexibility or ability to use resources in future years. Because we're in the mode where we're not one player away. We have lots of holes."

It's up to Douglas and Roseman to fill them.

Owners meetings: Jeff Lurie wants to bring back Kelly green jerseys

Owners meetings: Jeff Lurie wants to bring back Kelly green jerseys

PHOENIX -- Jeff Lurie wants to bring back Kelly green. 

The Eagles owner confirmed on Tuesday evening in Arizona at the annual league meetings that a proposal the Eagles initially submitted last week to allow teams to wear alternate helmets was all about bringing back the fan-favorite jerseys. 

For years, fan feedback to reporters about bringing Kelly green jerseys back has been overwhelming.

"It's overwhelming for me too. I would love to see it," Lurie said. "I love the midnight green, I think it's great. But I also want the Kelly green. I'd love for us to have both and some games have one and some games have the other. I think that would be more fun."

The reason the Eagles aren't yet using their Kelly green jerseys is language in the NFL's on-field policy that prohibits teams from wearing alternate helmets. For now, teams are only permitted to wear their primary helmets. And a midnight green helmet atop a Kelly green jersey would be an obvious clash. 

The resolution the Eagles proposed, but then withdrew before the competition committee met, would strike that language from the rule and  allow teams to wear alternate helmets "in a color to match their third uniform."  

Lurie said before the owners' meetings, the Eagles met with the competition committee, which told them the rule wouldn't pass. That's when they decided to withdraw the proposal this year. 

But Lurie isn't giving up. 

"They are aware that many teams would like to see this," he said. "My hope is that we'll be able to get it done hopefully by next March."

When asked why the league doesn't currently allow alternate helmets to be worn, Lurie declined to get into the specifics, saying it's a "complicated scenario." But he also seemed optimistic that eventually, the Eagles will be back in Kelly green. While Lurie preached patience in football matters, he admitted he's a little more impatient on this topic. 

Lurie's plan is to at first try the Kelly green jerseys as an alternate for two or three games, but didn't rule out the possibility of making a full-time switch back to the fan-favorite color. 

The last time the Eagles wore Kelly green was in 2010, when they faced the Packers in the 50th anniversary of the 1960 NFL championship. 

There would be a way to get around the current rules to wear Kelly green, but Lurie is set on doing it the right way. 

"Decals are an option," Lurie said, shaking his head, "but I want a Kelly green helmet. It looks better."