DEPARTURE tickets seemed stapled to more than a few foreheads by the time the Eagles' debacle of a 2012 season churned to a bitter end. Right up there among that group was Curtis Marsh, a cornerback drafted in the third round in 2011 who played almost exclusively on special teams last year, even as starting corners Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie melted down and the Eagles allowed a franchise- record 33 touchdown passes.
The defensive coaching staff clearly didn't think Marsh could play a lick. The fact that those coaches were all sent packing when Andy Reid was fired seemed unlikely to benefit Marsh all that much, as the Chip Kelly Eagles went out and signed starting corners Bradley Fletcher from the Rams and Cary Williams from the Ravens, and drafted Jordan Poyer, an Oregon State corner Kelly knew very well and liked a lot.
But so far in spring practices, Marsh is working opposite Fletcher with the starters, while Williams tries to make up for time missed because of what he said yesterday were a variety of personal issues, including some dental work, his wedding, and complications arising from the construction of his home in the Nashville area. When OTAs began, with Williams not present, it seemed hardly worth mentioning that Marsh was practicing with the starters, but now that Williams is on the field, behind Marsh, it might be a little bigger deal.
As we have seen with the return of Michael Vick, Kelly and his coaching staff want to make their own evaluations, regardless of what previous coaches, the fan base and reporters might think.
"I just view it as being out there," Marsh said yesterday when asked how he interprets his good fortune. "Whatever the coaches tell me to do, wherever they tell me to go, that's where I'm going to go, and I'm going to compete and work hard. And I'm not reading into anything, because we're in May right now . . . I feel like everyone has a clean slate, with a new coaching staff."
According to the Eagles' website, Marsh amassed all of 75 defensive snaps his first two NFL seasons, so a clean slate definitely is something he needed.
"I think it's great," Marsh said. "It's great to have fresh faces and fresh ideas around the organization. It definitely does help."
Marsh said he never asked for an explanation last season, even as young players got playing time at other positions after the Eagles were eliminated from contention.
"I just continued to come to work every day and work hard. If they wanted to put me out there - I'm sure they had thought about it - and if they wanted to do that, they could have [done] it," Marsh said. "I didn't think me meeting with them or anything like that was going to change that . . . I just have to control what I can."
Marsh, 6-1 197, converted from running back during his Utah State career, is a physical corner who might lack long speed. Pretty much the same could be said of Williams (6-1, 190).
When he came to the Eagles, Marsh was pegged as a good athlete who needed to learn the finer points of his position. Usually, though, athletic guys are at least able to make a mark on special teams. Marsh really hasn't.
"I feel like we're growing as a secondary every day and I'm getting better as a player every day," Marsh said.
Williams, meanwhile, lived through his own 2012 drama. He turned down a reported 3-year, $15 million deal before the season, and he says now that early on, it was clear to him Baltimore management wasn't going to bring him back. Williams ended up starting every game, as he had in 2011, picking off Tom Brady to seal the AFC title game and playing a prominent role in the Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII victory over the 49ers. (Williams was the guy who got away with shoving an official during a scrum that broke out following an Ed Reed interception.)
Normally, you start for a Super Bowl winner, everybody thinks you're great, but Williams gave up six touchdowns last season, and more than a few Ravens fans were glad to see him become part of the wholesale postseason turnover of the Baltimore defense. Among NFL corners who played at least 75 percent of their team's snaps, Williams ranked 25th, according to Pro Football Focus.
When he signed with the Eagles for $17 million over 3 years in March, Williams, 28, was part of a push to add guys who would be more than 1-year performers, general manager Howie Roseman said. The clear implication was that Williams would start, and, of course, he still can.
"I missed a whole month," Williams said. "When I came in [before OTAs], all we had was three different coverages. Now we have about 30 or 40 different coverages. I'm just trying to work my way through. Once I get a good feel for that, I guess things'll change."
From what Williams has said, it sounds as if he was unhappy with the Ravens' organization toward the end of his time there. Did that detract from winning the Super Bowl?
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, when you win a Super Bowl," he said. "There's a lot of guys that play in this league for years that haven't been able to do that. I accomplished one of my personal goals, and I can't allow an organization to take that from me. At the end of the day, I don't play for the organization, I play for those guys that are out there, those 10 other guys.
"We were a band of warriors, and we played as such. We went out there and we protected each other, and it was a love for the game . . . The main reason you participate is your love for the game and your love for your comrades."
Today on PhillyDailyNews.com: Jason Peters and Kenny Phillips are absent from Camp Kelly.