Jason Williams knows why he's here.
"Right now, my primary role is to be on special teams," Williams prior to his first practice as an Eagle. "I'm an athletic linebacker, probably one of the fastest, so speed has always been one of the main components of my game. That's really the main reason why I'm here, to help out the special teams unit."
Williams, 26, was signed Tuesday to help bolster a special teams coverage unit that ranks 28th in kickoff coverage and 25th in punt coverage. A third-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2009, Williams spent most of the last two seasons with the Carolina Panthers, where he led the team in special teams tackles in 2011.
"My whole mindset when it comes to special teams is "one shot," because every special teams play you only have one chance to go down there and do something," he said. "Defense and offense, a series can last anywhere between one and 12 plays or something like that. Special teams, you only get one shot to run down there.
"Special teams is a key component to any small-school guy's longevity in the NFL. Really, it's kind of like my claim to fame right now until I get to the point where I'm ready to take on a more important starting role. Special teams is what's going to help me get to that point in my career."
A product of Western Illinois, where he set an FBS record for forced fumbles in a career, Williams' has coveted athleticism. Prior to the NFL Draft, he was timed running a 4.49-second 40-yard dash at his pro day with a 39-inch vertical jump.
"I feel like that's the main reason I got drafted as high as I did," Williams said.
But while he's yet to make a major impact on defense in the NFL, Williams does believe he can contribute in a major way on special teams. And after the Panthers released Williams during the final roster cutdown just over a month ago, the Eagles are now in position to benefit from the extra motivation Williams built up during the first five weeks of the regular season.
"Sitting on the shelf after you played the entire season last year, the whole time you're sitting at home, pretty much everything's building up because you know that you can play," he said. "You know that you should be on the field. But life is about opportunities and now I have an opportunity to play and I want to stay here."
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