You’d understand if Milton Williams went into Sunday’s game in Detroit with a little something extra to prove.
Because on the other sideline was fellow defensive tackle Alim McNeill, who went one spot before him in the third round of the draft after the Eagles traded down a few slots. That series of events led to a now infamous moment between senior football advisor and NFL lifer Tom Donahoe and general manager Howie Roseman.
On Sunday, Williams was the better player. And he was given the defensive game ball for his efforts in the blowout 44-6 win.
“Really excited about the way he played and pleased with the way he played,” head coach Nick Sirianni said.
Williams, 22, had been having a quiet rookie season until Sunday.
But the third-round pick from Louisiana Tech has shown great effort and improvement before then. It’s just that he finally produced on the stat sheet in Detroit while playing about half of his snaps from the tackle position and half as an end.
“What happened in the game was some production came with him increasing his role and getting better and better and better and the ball came his way a couple times and he made the plays,” defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said.
“And that's the thing, like what we've talked about with production. Does the guy consistently do his job and then when the ball comes to him, does he make the play or not? That's really, ultimately, what you're looking for, and Milton did that. And it was good to see him have some success and some production, even though he's been producing within our defense.
“But on the stat sheet, it shows up that he made some plays and some impact plays for us. That was the reason he got the game ball.”
Against the Lions in 34 snaps (a DL high), Williams had 4 solo tackles, 1 QB hit, 2 tackles for loss and his first NFL sack. That sack was a huge play in the game, taking down Jared Goff on 4th-and-1 with seconds remaining in the first half to keep the Lions off the scoreboard going into the locker room.
Any change the Lions had to come back in that game went out the window when Williams hauled down Goff for a 4-yard loss.
And coming into Sunday, in his first seven games, Williams had just 2 solo tackles, no sacks, TFLs or QB hits.
So he broke out in a major way.
But it was a breakout that his coaches probably saw coming.
“He's improving every day,” Gannon said. “So, he's doing a real good job. A lot of stuff for any rookie is new, and just what we ask him to do and different things in the run game, in the pass game, he's improving in those things.”
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