PHILADELPHIA -- All things considered, last season was a pretty successful one for the Philadelphia Eagles. With a new head coach, Chip Kelly, and with radically different offensive and defensive schemes, they managed to win the NFC East and reach the postseason.
Sure, they lost 26-24 to New Orleans in the wild-card round, but that was a pretty good rookie campaign for Kelly and his team, right? That’s one point of view. Cornerback Cary Williams had a different one.
“The way we went out last year,” Williams said this week, “it wasn’t necessarily something we could be proud of. ...Every season, every team wants to focus on winning the Super Bowl. When you fall short like that, it leaves a nasty taste in your mouth. So I think everyone that’s here is hungry. I think everybody that’s here is motivated. Everybody here wants to win.”
Immediately after the playoff loss, Williams bristled at questions about a penalty he drew late in the game. While covering a kickoff, Williams found himself alone behind Saints' return man Darren Sproles (who is now with the Eagles). Williams said he had to find a way to bring Sproles down, and the result was a horse-collar penalty that gave the Saints the ball at the Eagles 48-yard line. Williams was fined $15,750 for the tackle.
Right after the game, Williams was annoyed by questions about the play. Five months later, he has a different outlook.
“Even myself, getting that horse collar,” Williams said, “I felt I could have made a better tackle than that. There were times I felt I could have stopped a running back in a tackle. I ended up letting a guy drag me along instead of taking out his legs. There were some plays that left a bad taste in my mouth. There are several guys out here who feel the same way.”
How the players respond to that sense of disappointment means everything. For Williams, it means being at every day of organized team activities. Last year, after signing with the Eagles, he missed a lot of offseason work.
“It was no offense to anybody out here,” Williams said. “I was just doing some personal things. Last year was last year. Coach understood. I’m here now. I’m in meetings, participating. All I needed to get done in the offseason last year is done.”
Williams clearly feels like a part of this team in a way he couldn’t have felt just by signing a contract last offseason. There is an investment involved now.
“I just think that everybody’s hungry,” Williams said. “We left a bad taste in our mouths last year losing at home. We lost a lot of games at home. Those are things that we want to right this season. It starts here in OTAs. We’ve got to continue to work. We’ve got to take every opportunity as an opportunity to better yourself, individually. It’s about camaraderie, about building that trust in your teammates. Once we get that down, we can have a pretty good season.”
The Eagles had a pretty good season in 2013. One of the most encouraging signs for 2014 is the sense 2013 wasn’t good enough.
“To me,” Williams said, “that’s not very impressive. We’ve got to do better than that. We’ve got to improve. I think we’re on the right path.”