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Eagles cornerback Williams walks the talk

Cary Williams isn't everybody's cup of tea. The Eagles cornerback says what's on his mind, and what's on his mind isn't always what people, including his own coaches, want to hear.

Remember those training-camp practices against the Patriots last summer? Remember Williams, who got tossed out of one of them for getting into a fight with Patriots wide receiver Aaron Dobson, saying that the defense needed to get tougher, needed to become feared, needed "a nasty"?

"I don't regret anything I've said," Williams said a couple of days after the Eagles' playoff loss to the Saints. "I stand in front of everybody, in front of the cameras, and I say what I say.

"I don't say those things to hinder the team. I say them to motivate the guys around me. That's just my personality. Some people are going to love it, some people are going to hate it. But at the end of the day, I'm still going to be Cary Williams. You can take me for who I am or go about your business."

The Eagles still need to make some personnel improvements on their defense this offseason. Some have suggested Williams' right cornerback spot is one of those places that needs to be upgraded.

I don't. Williams certainly wasn't perfect this season. No one on the defense was. But the fact of the matter is, he was a big reason that unit improved as the year went along. And let's not forget, were it not for the terrific play he made on the pass from Kyle Orton to Dez Bryant on that two-point attempt late in their 24-22, Week 17 win over the Cowboys, the Eagles might not even have made the playoffs.

Williams gave a young defense a much-needed dose of veteran leadership. He gave it as a guy who had been to the top of the mountain (with the Ravens) and knows what it takes to get there.

He gave it attitude and swagger and maybe even some nasty. Coordinator Bill Davis' unit may not be feared yet, but it definitely finished the season respected.

"Cary is his own person," cornerback Brandon Boykin said. "His attitude, his mentality, is aggressive all the time. He brought that swagger and that attitude to the defense. He was able to make plenty of plays. He's the kind of guy who's not going to take anything. That kind of mentality is kind of contagious. And as defensive backs, we have to have that kind of attitude."

Said linebacker Connor Barwin: "He won a Super Bowl. He's been to the playoffs every year he's been in the league. So he has that kind of confidence, which is good. Plus, he was a helluva player back there. It was nice having a big, tall corner like that."

Williams definitely will be back next season, which would be the case even if his $4.75 million salary wasn't fully guaranteed, which it is.

"I couldn't care less how I play as an individual," he said. "It's more about team effort and what I did to help the team win. That's the most important thing for me.

"I can say that I've gotten a lot of respect from guys, opponents, who came up to me after the game and said some (complimentary) things. At the end of the day, though, it's about W's in the win column."

FIGURING THE EAGLES

-- Nick Foles' salary-cap number for 2014 will be $714,880. Tony Romo's is $21.8 million.

-- DeSean Jackson clearly was Foles' go-to guy when the Eagles were behind this season. He had 44 catches for 753 yards and five touchdowns when the Eagles were trailing. He had 30 catches for 466 yards and three TDs when they were ahead, and eight receptions for 113 yards and one TD when the game was tied.

-- Foles had a 154.1 passer rating out of two-tight end sets this season. He completed 21 of 29 passes for 365 yards and threw eight touchdown passes and no interceptions. The Eagles used two-tight-end sets on only 25.8 percent of their offensive plays.

-- Rookie right tackle Lane Johnson gave up a team-high 10 sacks this season, according to Pro Football Focus. That was the sixth most in the league by a tackle. The Giants' Will Beatty gave up a league-high 13. A breakdown of the Eagles' offensive line's pass-blocking numbers:

Player, Sacks, Hits, Hurries

Lane Johnson, 10, 8, 39

Todd Herremans, 4, 10, 34

Jason Peters, 4, 3, 28

Jason Kelce, 3, 1, 8

Evan Mathis, 2, 6, 16

-- The Eagles had the fourth-most rushing attempts in the league (500), behind only the 49ers (505), Seahawks (509) and Bills (546). It's the most rushing attempts by the Eagles since 1995, when they had 508 in Ray Rhodes' first season as head coach. The Eagles ran the ball on 47.4 percent of their offensive plays this season. That was the sixth-highest mark in the league.

-- Foles had eight runs of 10 yards or more, which was the 10th most among quarterbacks. The Seahawks' Russell Wilson had a league-high 26, followed by Cam Newton (21), Colin Kaepernick (19) and Robert Griffin III and Terrell Pryor (18). Foles finished 12th in rushing among quarterbacks, with 221 yards. Newton had a league-best 585.

-- Alex Henery finished 23rd in the league in touchback percentage on kickoffs. Just 37 of his 90 kickoffs, or 42.5 percent, weren't returned. He has a 39.2 percent touchback rate in three NFL seasons. He's never finished higher than 22nd in kickoff touchback percentage.

-- Eagles starters missed a total of 29 games to injury, including 16 by wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who tore an ACL in training camp. That was the fourth fewest in the league, behind only the Jets (20) and the Chiefs and Redskins (22). The Giants had a league-high 91 missed games by starters.

THIS AND THAT

-- The Dolphins put their endless search for a general manager on hold this week while owner Steven Ross traveled to China on business. He is due back this evening and will meet with adviser Carl Peterson in South Florida Saturday, according to sources. It's unclear whether Ross wants to interview more candidates or is ready to hire one of the eight people he's already talked to.

-- Nick Foles was conspicuously absent from Pro Football Focus' All-NFC East team. PFF selected Tony Romo ahead of Foles, despite the fact that Foles had a plus-25 touchdowns-to-interceptions differential and the third-best passer rating (119.2) in league history. Six Eagles were selected: wide receiver DeSean Jackson, left guard Evan Mathis, center Jason Kelce, defensive end Fletcher Cox, outside linebacker Trent Cole and inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks. Redskins left tackle Trent Williams was selected ahead of Jason Peters.

-- There are a lot of people who think Peyton Manning needs another Super Bowl ring to legitimize his place as one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. Jeff Saturday isn't one of those people. Saturday, a six-time Pro-Bowl center with the Colts who was Manning's teammate for 13 years, feels his friend already has secured his place in history regardless of what happens in MetLife Stadium next Sunday (or Friday, or Monday).

"It really frustrates me when I hear people talk about his legacy," he said. "He's going to go down as the greatest quarterback in NFL history, or one of them. Ultimately, playoff football is team football. All three phases of your game have to be effective. I saw somewhere where (Tom) Brady's record against Peyton was 10-4 or something like that. But when you look back to the early years when we played New England, I think the first time Brady beat us, he threw maybe 15 passes. Now, Brady is a first-ballot Hall of Famer and will go down as the best or one of the best. But so is Peyton. This is a five-time MVP quarterback. To say (winning just one Super Bowl) is going to affect his legacy is silly and shortsighted."

-- You can make a prop bet on just about anything Super Bowl-related. Some of the ones listed by oddsmaker Bovada include whether Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno will cry during the national anthem (4-1 that he will), which FOX sideline reporter will be seen first on TV after the opening kickoff (Erin Andrews is 5-7, Pam Oliver is 1-1), whether 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree will mention Richard Sherman in a tweet during the game (3-2 he will) and the color of the Gatorade or liquid that will be dumped on the winning coach (clear/water is the 2-1 favorite; green is a 10-1 longshot).

-- The list of 15 modern-era finalists who will be considered for the Hall of Fame a week from Saturday includes four first-time-eligible candidates -- offensive tackle Walter Jones, linebacker Derrick Brooks, wide receiver Marvin Harrison and coach Tony Dungy.

Jones probably has the best chance of the four of getting in this year. Former Eagles offensive line coach Howard Mudd, who coached the six-time All-Pro when he was a rookie with the Seahawks in '97, said Jones was better than the Ravens' Jon Ogden, who was voted in last year in his first year of eligibility, and as good or better than Anthony Munoz.

"Walter's performance, consistency, domination, compared to Ogden's, it's not even close," Mudd said. "If you go back in time, this was a guy like Munoz. Munoz was a gifted, athletic guy who arguably was one of the very best to ever play (the left-tackle position). But I'm not so sure that Walt wasn't even better than him. If you made me choose between the two of them, I'd take Walt, because he was stronger."

-- Last March, the league implemented yet another player-safety rule aimed at reducing the risk of head trauma. It made it illegal for both offensive and defensive players to deliver a forcible blow with the crown of their helmet outside the tackle box. Running backs squawked, while the league said it was just bringing back the shoulder to the game of football. Well, either NFL players are quick learners (not likely) or the league's zebras just chose to ignore the new rule. It was called only three times this season.

-- Roger Goodell said Thursday that regardless of how cold it gets for the Super Bowl, he will watch the game outside and won't retreat to a climate-controlled luxury box.

"Yes, I want to experience this," Goodell, whose legacy is riding on this game a lot more than Peyton Manning's, said on "CBS This Morning." "They play (cold-weather) games in Green Bay all the time. There always are hundreds of people with their shirts off there. I will not have my shirt off, though."

-- A record seven quarterbacks had 100-plus passer ratings this season. Eleven were above 90. Former quarterback and current ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said the biggest difference has been the play of the second-tier quarterbacks.

"You've got your four, five Mount Rushmore guys," he said. "But the second tier -- the Lucks, Romos, Rivers, Roethlisbergers, Newtons, Kaepernicks, Wilsons -- that group is 12, 14 deep now. I'm talking about guys that can really, really play. And they can handle so much. Mentally, it's 10 times harder to play the quarterback position today than it's ever been. You talk to late-'80s and early-'90s quarterbacks that had a lot of success, and they can't believe what these guys are doing at the line of scrimmage. What they're responsible for. How much information they're processing. What separates the guys now is consistency and what I would call critical-moment performance. Third down, red zone, end of half, end of game. The game-management stuff, which Steve Young says is 85 percent of the game."

FROM THE LIP

-- "Guys didn't like coming to work. That's one of the things you have to have -- a stress-free atmosphere and environment. You're going to get everything out of everybody if it's stress-free and you let people be who they are. I just didn't feel he did a very good job of that." (Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis, on fired head coach Greg Schiano)

-- "I don't have much of a rooting interest, truthfully. Those games are hard to watch. I don't really see myself sitting down to enjoy a football game to watch it. Our season's over. Truthfully, I couldn't care less about watching the game. That's pretty much how I feel." (Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, when asked if he's going to watch the Super Bowl)

-- "The reason it bothers me is it seems that's the accepted way now to call someone the N-word. They say 'thug,' and that takes me aback. Maybe I'm talking loudly on the field and saying things I'm not supposed to, but there was a hockey game the other day where they didn't even play hockey. They just threw the puck aside and started fighting. I thought, 'Oh man. I'm the thug?' Geez." (Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, on being called a thug after his postgame rant)

BY THE NUMBERS

-- The Seahawks' defense led the league both in interceptions and fewest passing yards allowed this season. It's only the third time since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 that has happened. All three teams made it to the Super Bowl. The 2002 Bucs won and the 1982 Dolphins lost.

-- Peyton Manning is just the fourth quarterback in the Super Bowl era to lead the league in passing yards and touchdown passes in the same season and make it to the Super Bowl. The other three: Dan Marino (1984), Kurt Warner (2001) and Tom Brady (2007).

-- The Seahawks' 23-17 win over the 49ers was the seventh straight NFC Championship Game to be decided by seven or fewer points.

-- Seahawks QB Russell Wilson is just the fourth player in history to pass for at least 20 touchdowns in each of his first two seasons. The other three: Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, Andy Dalton.

(c)2014 Philadelphia Daily News

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