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Clint Hurtt says not to forget this player at defensive tackle

Milton Williams
Milton Williams

Clint Hurtt understands the dynamic in his defensive line room: The elder statesman among the tackles is Milton Williams, all of 25 years old in his fourth season. The pieces of clay to mold include former first-round picks Jordan Davis (entering Year 3) and Jalen Carter (Year 2).

The possibilities are exciting.

"Making strides and it's a work in progress," said Hurtt, the team's senior defensive assistant/defensive line coach who worked for two seasons with coordinator Vic Fangio in Chicago and then spent seven seasons in Seattle, two as defensive coordinator. "Jalen has been really good. He's grown and matured so much and it's been a pleasure to coach him. Jordan is a huge man, long arms. He's strong. He can get up and down and make tackles in the tackle box. Being in great shape is the key for him.

"I love it because they're both young. They're still in the molding phase. They're still developing in the run game and the pass rush. And what's been really good is that they're taking a leadership role. You don't replace a guy like Fletcher Cox (former Eagle who retired after the 2023 season), but they're doing their very best to step out into the forefront. It's been really cool from that dynamic to help them understand how it is to lead. If you are going to be a leader, how you carry yourself and how you hold yourself to a higher standard."

Williams needs to be considered in the same bucket as he's grown and developed and produced in his time since the Eagles selected him in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He set career highs last season in total tackles (42), quarterback pressures (24), and quarterback hits (7) in 494 snaps.

"Milton has been unbelievable," Hurtt said. "His work ethic, attention to detail – he asks a ton of questions and I love that part about him. I think he has a very bright future in front of him. He does get overlooked a little bit, but he is valued here, no question."

Senior Defensive Assistant/Defensive Line Coach Clint Hurtt has coordinator experience and previously worked with new Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio.
Senior Defensive Assistant/Defensive Line Coach Clint Hurtt has coordinator experience and previously worked with new Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio.

The three of those players are expected to eat up the majority of the defensive tackle snaps, and there will be times when one of them lines up over the center in a nose tackle position. Things are not entirely clear how Fangio plans to utilize his talent up front, but it's probable that he will mix things up quite a bit. So, versatility is key.

So is handling a big load and Davis, Carter, and Williams must step up collectively and fill the void created by Cox's retirement. And then some, as the Eagles want to dominate in the trenches.

"My goal, just like it was last year, is to improve," said Davis, who says he weighs 350 pounds and is more lean and diet- and activity-aware than in the past. "Obviously, I'm stepping into a much larger role than I was last year and I know what is expected of me. In terms of being in shape, I'm getting in the best condition of my life. That's not just me. That's from the top down. That's the D-line – that's the standard that we demand of each other."

Carter opened eyes last season with his performance after the Eagles selected him with the ninth overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, recording 33 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, and six quarterback sacks and earning All-Rookie Team honors from the Pro Football Writers Association. He was, at times, dominating.

This season, Carter has much, much higher goals.

"Last year was OK. It wasn't how I wanted it to end," he said. "We're here now and I'm ready to be better than last year. I'm just here to get better and that's what I'm working for. I'm very confident in what I can do and what we have here. I want to play better than I did last year and that's my focus every day."

The pieces are in place for great growth along the defensive line, with some young veterans and an eager, experienced, and highly successful position coach leading the way.

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