Philadelphia Eagles: Milton Williams could pull double duty in Week 17

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

*sigh* Another day, another set of Philadelphia Eagles players added to the COVID list; at this point, it’s practically clockwork.

So who is it this time? Well, after adding Shaun Bradley, Le’Raven Clark, and Ryan Kerrigan to the list over the weekend, the Eagles have announced that Derek Barnett, Andre Chachere, Tarron Jackson, and practice squad tight end Noah Togiai have entered protocol, joining Andre Dillard on the list from the week before.

Factor in the possibility that Miles Sanders could still end up on IR depending on how the MRI scan on his hand goes, and the Philadelphia Eagles could find themselves severely undermanned when they take on the Washington Football Team for the second time in two weeks.

Ideal? Probably not, but hey, don’t get too doomy and gloomy just yet. Nick Sirianni beat COVID in less than a week, and it’s entirely possible many of these players, especially Bradley, Clark, Kerrigan, and Dillard, could all be back in time for a short road trip down to our nation’s capital to take on a football team that made waves in Week 16 more for a sideline fight than their on-field play.

And hey, if Derek Barnett and Tarron Jackson can’t go, it’s not like the Philadelphia Eagles are bereft of talent either. If anything, this could give the team a perfect opportunity to see if Milton Williams can handle a bigger workload splitting his time, Brandon Graham-style, between defensive tackle and defensive end.

Williams has a chance to prove his worth to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17.

Milton Williams is an athletic marvel.

He’s incredibly fast for a 290-pound defensive end and has the sort of burst needed to shoot through a line and make plays both versus the run and on opposing quarterbacks. Sure, he’s a tad short and has an unfortunate case of T-Rex arms, but when you can run faster than most tight ends and have a vertical jump that ranks in the 91st percentile among all tested NFL players, you can forgive an unconventional build.

Let’s just say when a player’s top athletic comparables are Ed Oliver, Soloman Thomas, and Aaron Donald – according to Mockdraftable – they, my friend, are in rarified air.

The third player selected by Howie Roseman in the 2021 NFL Draft, Williams has appeared in all 15 of the Eagles’ games so far this season and has largely flown under the radar when compared to many of the players in his class, recording only 25 tackles, four tackles for a loss, five quarterback hits, and a pair of sacks over 395 defensive snaps. While he may not generate as much name recognition as players like DeVonta Smith, Landon Dickerson, or Kenneth Gainwell, who was drafted 77 picks after the pride of Louisiana Tech, Williams has played 40 percent of the defense’s snaps and filled whatever role Jonathan Gannon asked in any given game.

In Week 17, that might just be at defensive end, a position Williams played some in college and for much of the Eagles’ preseason campaign.

While it may be a tad unconventional to trot out a 290-pound defensive end, Williams is faster, stronger, and more explosive than Derek Barnett and could at worst fill a similar role as a base-package defensive end who plays solid meat-and-potatoes ball versus both the run and the pass. And hey, it’s not like teams haven’t had success before with a bigger defensive end helping to set a hard edge on the edge, as both Gannon’s former Indianapolis Colts boss Matt Eberflus had both Justin Houston and Denico Autry fill that role in 2020 and his mentor, Mike Zimmer, notoriously offset his speedy rusher Danielle Hunter with a bigger-bodied base end like Everson Griffen.

Do I personally think Williams is better suited to play defensive end full time? No. What really makes Williams special is his ability to rush interior offensive linemen with a unique combination of speed and power, but situationally speaking, like on fourth-and-1 or around the goal line, playing a 290-pound defensive end does have some merit, especially if BG was still healthy enough to play on the opposite side of the formation instead of pass-rushing specialist Josh Sweat.

Week 17 could be a nice little test case to see how that turns out.

Next. 3 positive takeaways from the Philadelphia Eagles’ Week 16 win. dark

In a perfect world, the Philadelphia Eagles will get both Derek Barnett and Tarron Jackson back in time for Week 17, and Jonathan Gannon will be afforded the luxury to play Milton Williams as he sees fit. But if either of those players – plus Ryan Kerrigan, I guess – can’t go, it will be incredibly interesting to see how Williams is deployed and at which position, as him adding rotational defensive end to his resume could seriously boost 93’s value heading into the offseason.