Milton Williams admits it: When the Eagles used back-to-back first-round draft picks on defensive tackles in 2022 and 2023, he felt it. A sting, maybe? A burn of motivation, possibly?
"It added to the chip on my shoulder, that's for sure," said Williams, the third-year defensive tackle who has been a force for the Eagles this season and, really, since mid-year of '22. "But that's what the NFL is all about. You are going to get competition. And you should use it to push you and make you better. That's how I took it. I didn't get down or anything like that. It just added fuel to the fire."
His is a fire that has been burning brightly and improving rapidly since the Eagles selected him from Louisiana Tech in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Williams was an immediate contributor in the tackle rotation, playing 40 percent of the defensive snaps that season, 36 percent in the Super Bowl run of '22, and about 45 percent of the snaps this year. A tremendous athlete who posted ridiculous numbers at the Scouting Combine in '21, Williams has learned the game, become a student of film study, and combines great quickness off the ball with strength and technique to thrive in the system.
Williams is sharing most of the reps with veteran Fletcher Cox, Jordan Davis (2022 first-round draft pick), and Jalen Carter (2023 first-round draft pick), with Marlon Tuipulotu and Kentavius Street, along with rookie Moro Ojomo, alternating the rest of the workload.
It is a rotation that requires patience, understanding, and the right kind of emotional competitiveness.
"If you aren't getting it done out there, they aren't going to waste any time putting someone else in," Williams said. "You have to pick up your game. Jordan and Jalen, those are two great players, so I knew that I had to be better to earn playing time. Every day, I'm pushing myself and I can feel things getting better and better."
Williams is a starter in the team's base personnel package and he's been terrific as evidenced by the game he played on Sunday at the Jets. Williams had four total tackles, two quarterback hits, and shared a quarterback sack as the defense limited New York to 244 total net yards of offense, just two conversions on 11 third downs, and sacked Zach Wilson five times. The defensive line had those five sacks, along with six tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hurries.
It wasn't enough to win the game, and that's the takeaway for Williams.
"All that matters is winning football games," Williams said. "Tough one. We have to bounce back. That's the plan."
The Miami Dolphins' high-flying offense plays at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night and the Eagles know that Miami has speed and big-play ability everywhere. For Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai, preparing for Miami is a tough assignment. Everyone is going to have to be at the top of his game, and Desai knows what to expect from Williams.
"I think Milton has done an outstanding job," Desai said on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex. "I've said his name a few times since I've been here. He's so consistent and he's so physical. He prepares like a pro and he's always ready for the opportunities that he's been given. That's what you want in all of our players. He just comes to work, he does his business, and he's physical. The guys respect him, his peers respect him, and we certainly appreciate him.
"He's a big part of our defense."