The Eagles signed Cary Williams in March to become a starting cornerback. During much of the offseason program, however, Williams has not been with the team because of previously scheduled personal matters.
After returning May 21, he's back participating in organized team activities after missing four of six sessions during the last two weeks.
On Tuesday, Williams did not line up with the first-team defense. The depth chart matters little in May, and Williams warned against drawing conclusions from what was seen on the field. He added that he's been with the first team during periods that aren't open to reporters. But it's clear that the 28-year-old who signed a three-year, $17 million contract with the Eagles has to catch up.
"That's what Coach wants, that's what he's doing, and that's fine with me," Williams said, referring to Chip Kelly. "It's just one of those things where I missed a couple of weeks, guys have been here, and Coach has given them an opportunity. And that's fine. OTAs are OTAs. When we get the pads on, it's a different thing."
The OTAs are voluntary - tackle Jason Peters has been absent for the last week - but it's customary for players to attend.
Williams' schedule included his wedding. When he was absent for the first week of OTAs, Kelly cited Williams' wedding and a honeymoon. Williams didn't go on a honeymoon, but he had other personal matters to attend to, such as the building of a house and dental work.
"Just because it was OTAs doesn't mean I need to derail my plans for a situation like that," Williams said. "Not being disrespectful. Everybody has their own personal life and things to take care of. And in my life, I have something to take care of, and I felt that was important. . . . As far as I'm concerned, I did what was more important to me at the time, and family is the most important thing."
Williams said the biggest requirement now is developing communication. The Eagles defensive backfield likely will feature four starters who have never played together.
"It's a difference between being a top-10 defense and a top-25 defense," Williams said.
The Eagles have about 35 coverage packages. That's different from Williams' Baltimore Ravens team from 2009-12.
"He did a great job of kind of playing catch-up," Kelly said. "I couldn't tell you exactly where he is, but he did miss a good amount of insertion when we were in Phase 2 and then that first week of OTAs, but I think he's a sharp kid, really gets football really, really quickly, so it's just a matter of [the defensive backs coaches] getting him up to speed."
The beneficiary of Williams' absence has been third-year cornerback Curtis Marsh. The Eagles were intrigued by Marsh's potential when they selected him in the third round in 2011, but his first two seasons yielded few results.
At 6-foot-1 and 197 pounds, Marsh has the size that Kelly covets in a cornerback. He has no track record of NFL production, but a clean slate with the coaching staff is a benefit, and all the first-team reps have given the coaches a long look.
"I'm not reading into anything, because we're in May right now, and camp starts in August, season starts in September," Marsh said.
The other first-string cornerback has been Bradley Fletcher, another free-agent signee. Marsh might need to try to unseat Fletcher if he hopes to start, because the expectation is that Williams will be the Eagles' top cornerback. After missing a month, though, Williams must catch up to earn that spot.
"Once we get the pads on," Williams said, "the cream will rise to the top."