ALL GOOD things take a little time.
Following a disastrous season for the secondary, the Eagles signed free-agent cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams to replace Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
With organized team activities and minicamp now a thing of the past, the new-look secondary has made a stride toward creating some chemistry. But a few weeks of noncontact practice is not enough on which to predict the future.
After winning a Super Bowl with the Ravens, Williams signed a 3-year contract with the Eagles. Fletcher, who spent four seasons with St. Louis, signed a 2-year contract.
Although both have spent multiple seasons in the NFL, each player will be entering a new system and a new defense under first-year coordinator Bill Davis. It might take some time, but Williams said the group will be ready once the season approaches.
"It's a new system that most of the guys are coming into, so we have our struggles here and there. But my focus is to get better each and every day and communicate on the secondary," Williams said. "Once we get that communication down, our jobs will be a lot easier."
Along with the struggles of communicating as a new group, the members of the secondary must learn each other's style of play in order to be a successful unit.
While Williams and Fletcher are expected to be the starting corners, Brandon Boykin is expected to be a nickel corner. As a fourth-round rookie last season, Boykin recorded 25 tackles, while also serving as the primary kick returner.
"It's a totally different defense," Boykin said. "These are totally different guys with a different set of skills, so it doesn't matter who is here, we just have to get the job done."
Boykin believes the group can be successful, but it is difficult to tell, as they have only been practicing together for a few weeks in Eagles' OTAs and minicamp.
"There has been a lot of chemistry just in the OTAs and minicamp and just trying to learn the defense, but at the same time we are just trying to compete and go at it full-speed," Boykin said. "Once training camp comes, we expect to be able to roll that over and for it to be a smooth transition."
It is tough to tell what the defense will shape up to look like, but head coach Chip Kelly has liked what he has seen from his group of cornerbacks, even though they are practicing without pads and in different formations than they will face as the preseason approaches.
"I haven't seen enough because we can't play press-man in camp, so we'll see a lot more when camp opens up," Kelly said. "So far, I like them, I like their length, I like their size, but it's still a big evaluation for us."
Each player will enter camp with group and personal expectations for the 2013 season. Williams, who won a Super Bowl this past February, hopes to see the Eagles do what his Ravens team did in the playoffs and surprise everybody.
Williams added that he will be focusing on his team goals more than his personal goals this season. Included in the team goals is to increase the number of interceptions, which shouldn't be hard: the Eagles had just eight last season, four of which came from Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie.
"Well, right now it's too early in the season to predict anything," said Williams, who had four interceptions last season, including a pick-six. "We just want to come out there and play tough each and every week and just take one thing at a time. We haven't been through any specifics as to what particular goals we have as a unit."
Boykin believes the addition of Williams and Fletcher will greatly help.
"They're both good players," Boykin said. "They both have had good stats and good careers at another place and they came in here and kind of tried to build that trust with everybody and do what they need to do. All of us are still trying to get to know each other, but it will be good."
The three corners spent the majority of OTAs and minicamp working on coverage drills, tackling, finding the right positioning and using their hands in the right situations, Williams said.
In addition to the basics, Williams and Boykin agreed that the group must work on perfecting the little things that separate the good players from the great players.
Once training camp begins (rookie report July 22, veterans July 25), the secondary will be able to continue to grow as a unit. While Fletcher, Williams and Boykin are happy with the progress they made as a group during the spring OTAs and minicamp, they understand the time spent together was just a steppingstone for what is still to come.
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