Eagles cornerback looking for an 'edge'

Posted: August 13, 2013

IF CHIP KELLY had those pictorial flash cards for his defense, as well, Friday night the Eagles would have been employing a scheme depicted by a photo of a wet paper towel.

Cary Williams noticed this, and was troubled. The Birds' sconce-shopping cornerback thinks his teammates need to toughen up. And yesterday, on his first day back from a hamstring injury that prohibited him from taking part in that 31-22, preseason-opening loss to the New England Patriots, Williams explained that the Eagles lack the fight, the edginess of his former team, the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.

But while Kelly surely wants a tough defense, he and Williams seem to be at odds over how toughness is manifested in football.

"We could go get in a street fight, but that's not going to help us," Kelly said, when Williams' words were relayed to him.

Let's back up a sec. Last Tuesday, the Patriots arrived for 3 days of joint practices leading up to Friday's game. Williams got into a scuffle with Pats wideout Aaron Dobson at the end of a running play. Williams and Dobson were benched for the rest of the day. Kelly later explained that he and New England coach Bill Belichick had agreed beforehand to take that approach to extracurriculars.

Williams and Dobson returned to practice Wednesday, but Williams tweaked the hamstring that has been bothering him since the start of camp. (Yesterday's was the first entire practice Williams has made it through.) Because he was injured and wasn't practicing, the Eagles didn't have to make him available to reporters, and they didn't, until he returned.

Asked about what happened with Dobson, Williams said yesterday he needs to learn to do things the Eagles' way: "When I see something, I can't get frustrated and take it out on people."

OK, sounds good, now let's head over and check in with Vinny Cur . . . wait a minute, Cary's still talking.

"I was taught to be aggressive at all times, come out and compete at all times . . . They came in there talking. They had a lot of jokes and tee-hees and laughs," Williams said of the Pats. "Dirty plays that were going on. There's a reason behind what I did. There's a reason behind the madness. At the end of the day, I've still got to do things the way the coach wants me to do it, and I understand that, but it definitely would have been a different situation in Baltimore. It wouldn't have been a fun practice for the Patriots, I'll tell you that.

"I feel like we need a 'nasty,' no question. I feel like we've got to establish a toughness, a tenacity, a hard-nosed defense, something that's to be feared when it comes out there each and every week. I think Brian Dawkins alluded to it a couple of times when I spoke to him, he's talking about 'bring that fear back here.' Right now, I don't know if there's anybody out there in the league who fears this defense, especially after last week.

"We have to come together, find a way to get back to those old days when Brian Dawkins was here, strike the fear in individuals and teams."

Kelly did not rally around Williams' vision. (And in fact, it's hard to remember Dawk ever getting into a dustup with an opponent.)

"You do that in a game, you get kicked out," Kelly said, referring to the Williams-Dobson scrum. "We practice like we play."

There was not a lot of overt animosity expressed during the Patriots' visit, but the day after Williams and Dodson were tossed, Eagles corner Brandon Boykin told Comcast SportsNet he felt he needed to mark his turf:

"I can speak for the whole team," Boykin said. "I felt like, honestly, they came out with this attitude to try to bully us, and even though it's practice it's always still a game tempo. I think as a team, and obviously I can speak for myself, I wanted to try to set the tone on myself as an aggressive person [Wednesday] and just make plays."

The Eagles gave up 248 rushing yards Friday on just 31 carries, 8.0 yards per carry. Much was made afterward of the fact that Kelly's team doesn't tackle to the ground much in training camp. Kelly said yesterday that the 62-yard Stevan Ridley run on the Pats' first snap was mostly a matter of not being gap-sound.

But don't the Eagles need more of an edge?

"There's a certain way you're supposed to play this game. It's between the whistles," Kelly said. "The stuff after the whistles is not what we're looking for . . . Our players knew . . . and Bill was the same way, one of the reasons we wanted to participate [in practices] against the Patriots was we knew this wasn't going to turn into a WWE brawl, because that's not what it is, it's a game of football."

Some observers felt Williams was lucky not to be ejected from the Super Bowl when he shoved an official during a scrum. He has been a talk-radio lightning rod since signing with the Eagles in the offseason for $18 million over 3 years, then missing much of the optional OTA time because of dental work, his wedding, and house-building in the Nashville area, most famously, the picking out of sconces.

WIP has taken to playing his "there's more to life than football" quote from the spring endlessly.

Williams said the Pats "did some good stuff" but "my mind was on the dirty stuff."

When asked about being pulled from practice, Williams, 28, said: "I'm just used to a certain way of life, a certain way on the field. It's just different, that's all it is. It's not necessarily a bad different or a good different, it's just a different situation.

"Those guys I play with, whether they be on offense, defense or special teams, those are my brothers. Every time I strap up, that's my family. When I see guys getting blocked in the back in practice, when we get told not to retaliate, to be the bigger person, it's hard, because I come from a different background. Me just relaxing and being cool and lettin' those people do what they do to me is something I'm not used to."

Asked about the influence of Ray Lewis in Baltimore, Williams said: "I think we're working toward that personality. We definitely need somebody to instill that toughness, that fear, that 'Eagles' Way' . . . Last year we [the Eagles] were at the bottom, looking up. I think we're still at the bottom looking up, because we haven't won a game yet . . . Every time I strap on, it's an attitude, it's almost like a religion, you know what I mean? It's a physical game, it's a tough game. It's a game where there's going to be words said, but you've got to let your pads do the talking, too. I just think we have to establish that here."

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On Twitter: @LesBowen

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