Cary Williams: Nasty as ever

Eagles cornerback Cary Williams. (David Maialetti/Staff file photo)

He missed a series of voluntary organized team activities last spring because he was getting married; he attended his daughter's dance recital; he needed dental work; and he had to pick out the sconces for his new home.

Sconces? Really? Who says that?

We now know the answer is Cary Williams.

When the New England Patriots showed up at the NovaCare Complex last summer for a series of workouts against the Eagles, he was the guy who got kicked out of practice by Chip Kelly and responded by saying that no team in the NFL feared the Philadelphia defense.

When the racially charged Riley Cooper outburst hit the fan last year in training camp, he was the guy throwing gasoline on the fire by graphically calling out his teammate during practice a few weeks later.

Williams was not the greatest cornerback in the world last season, but he was the most interesting man on the Eagles' roster. And because of his physical style of play, he helped establish a toughness that allowed the Eagles to become a vastly improved defense.

"I feel like we made strides," Williams said Monday after practice.

The Eagles allowed 26.4 points per game in the first half of last season and only 21.4 per game in the second half. They also went from a league-low 13 takeaways in 2012 to 31 - tied for second in the NFL - in 2013.

They still lag far behind Seattle, San Francisco, and Carolina in terms of being among the league's elite defenses, and it's fair to wonder whether the addition of free-agent safety Malcolm Jenkins and a group of role players will be enough for the Eagles to reach a higher level this season.

Instead, they may have to rely on familiarity and contempt. It should help that the entire starting defense except for Jenkins is well-versed in what defensive coordinator Bill Davis wants to do. Williams thinks it will help even more if the nastiness quotient rises to the level he used to see when he was teammates with Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata in Baltimore.

"It's just about being physical at the point of attack," Williams said when asked to define nasty. "When you're getting 11 guys to the ball, you're getting guys swarming, getting guys hitting, and you're hearing contact. You're getting guys with no YAC [yards after the catch]. We have a lot of guys in our locker room who are capable of doing that, and now that we have a year under our belt in this system, you can look forward to us being a lot more physical and a lot more dynamic on defense."

Williams, 29, is in the second year of a three-year deal worth $17 million.

When he skipped some of the voluntary workouts last year at this time, he created some doubt about his commitment as a team-first player.

When he confronted Cooper during a September practice scuffle, you had to wonder whether he was trying to light a powder keg in the locker room.

By the end of the season, however, Williams had won the confidence and trust of his coaches and his teammates. He's not a great cover corner, but his durability and ruggedness make him a valuable piece of a unit that believes as a whole it can be better than the sum of its parts.

Williams said he has no regrets about his missed OTA time last year.

"Did I miss some of these? No doubt," he said. "But I am a team player and a family guy and someone who is seen in the locker room as a guy who can be trusted. I missed out on that at this time last year, and some of my actions were misunderstood to a degree. At the end of the day, I still don't regret what I did. I felt like I was doing the right thing for me and for my family. That was the first time I had ever missed OTAs, and I had neglected a lot of family things for a while."

As for his relationship with Cooper, it is solid. The two men went at each other near the end of practice Monday, with Williams winning the battle and then exchanging words with Cooper that were intended to help the receiver.

"That was two guys who were heated, frustrated probably from the day before, and we got into it, and that's just that," Williams said. "Now, me and him have grown, and we've been able to establish a relationship. We talk about everything, especially football. We're trying to get better and trying to make each other better. He's a part of our family, he's a part of my family, and I look forward to him doing big things this season."

Cooper and some other Eagles may do some incredible things this season, but it's unlikely any them will challenge Cary Williams for the title of "Most Interesting Man on the Team."