In 2012, the Eagles secondary proved to be one of the team's biggest weaknesses. Heading into this season, a number of changes were made on the defensive side of the ball. Bill Davis was hired from Cleveland as the new defensive coordinator. Connor Barwin, Patrick Chung, Bradley Fletcher and Isaac Sopoaga were all signed as free agents and inserted into the starting lineup. Through one game of 2013, it was another defensive addition that has perhaps made the largest impact - cornerback Cary Williams.
The intensity that Williams plays with has been apparent from the moment he stepped onto the practice fields at the NovaCare Complex, and the fifth-year pro says it's the only way that he knows how to play.
"It's just how I was brought up," Williams said. "(You) have to take everything seriously. If you have a great preparation week, usually it's going to matriculate into the game. You're going to see great plays being made and you're going to reap the benefits of playing hard. So I work hard and to God be the glory that I was out there and able to make plays.
Williams survived the streets of Liberty City, Fla., a rough neighborhood in Miami, as a youth and persevered despite being selected in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft out of little-known Washburn to become a starting cornerback and Super Bowl champion.
"I've always been like that my whole life. I've always been an underdog, a guy that hasn't been recognized as a top player or whatever the case may be … but I beg to differ," Williams said. "I believe in myself and I believe in my ability, and I come out and I prepare well. I look for success on the field."
The energy that Williams provides has already started rubbing off onto his teammates. Williams has already made a lasting impression on rookie Jordan Poyer and is helping him become a better cornerback.
"He brings that attitude and it fires (the defense) up," said Poyer, a seventh-round pick like Williams. "He's one of those guys who doesn't take crap from anybody, and at corner especially, you have to have that swagger out there. You're kind of on an island. When you make a play everyone knows it and when you get beat everyone knows it, so you have to have that swagger out there and he has it.
"When I see guys going as far as he goes and the attitude that he brings, it makes me want to have that attitude and go just as hard. We're lucky to have a guy like Cary Williams in our secondary."
In the opener, Williams became the first Eagles cornerback since 2005 to record a sack and an interception in the same game. He also broke up a pass on fourth down late in the game. The interception occurred on the Redskins' first drive of the second half, with Williams diving to take away a Robert Griffin III pass.
"It was just a great play and I thank God for giving me the opportunity to go out there and play the game that I love," Williams said of the interception. "It was a great reaction. Now that I look at it, it wasn't a bad throw or errant throw. It was me going out there and making a great play."
Williams' teammates were in awe of the interception.
"That was one of the best plays from a cornerback that I have ever seen," Poyer said. "He zone-turned it and instead came underneath and dove for the ball. I was surprised that it wasn't a top-10 play (on the highlights). I have a lot of respect for Cary and the way he plays the game. I watch him and try to learn from him and from all the guys."
Williams and the rest of the Eagles defense now turn their attention to the San Diego Chargers, a team that has been left with a bad taste in their mouth following a 31-28 loss to Houston during which they held a 28-7 lead.
"I think you have to go out and play within the confines of the defense," Williams explained. "You don't want to go out and do too much. You have to make sure that you do your job. I think Philip Rivers and their offense operate with a lot of rhythm and if we can disrupt their timing and that rhythm between him and his wide receivers, I think we'll be a successful team."
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