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2013 was a season of firsts and improvement for Arizona Cardinals' DT Dan Williams

Philadelphia Eagles' Nick Foles (9) tosses to LeSean McCoy (25) as he is tackled by Arizona Cardinals' Dan Williams (92) and Frostee Rucker (98) during the first half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It took until his 54th game as a professional, but Dan Williams finally notched his first career sack.

His fourth-quarter takedown of San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick left the 49ers facing a second down and 23, and a few plays later the 49ers were forced to punt. Not long after that, the Cardinals drove down the field and tied the game.

Of course, the Cardinals ended up losing their final game of the season, and that's why Williams was unable to really enjoy his achievement.

"It would have felt great if we would have got the win," he said Monday. "At first I was like, ‘Finally,' because there were times I got close and the guy just threw the ball or sometimes we didn't have contain on that play."

Williams, 26, said it was nice to be able to get that first one out of the way and prove that he can do more than just be a run stuffer along the defensive line. He said he sets goals every season, and the plan is to add more to his total next season.

It's all part of the growing process for the former first round pick, who also recorded his first career interception and touchdown in 2013. Without big plays like that, though, Williams' contributions often go unnoticed by the causal observer.

For the most part, the 6-foot-3, 314-pound Williams is not asked to get after the quarterback. His role, largely, is to help take up blockers and stop the run. Given that the Cardinals ranked first in the NFL in run defense, he did a solid job there, and his efforts freed up other members of the defense to be playmakers. It's a job Williams is fine with and understands, but he always felt he could do more.

He credits defensive line coach Brenston Buckner for helping him improve as a pass rusher, and said he was always telling the coaches he could do more than just plug the middle of the line.

"This year they really gave me the opportunity to penetrate and get up field," Williams said, "so a few times between myself and Alameda (Ta'amu), we did a good job pushing the pocket and pushing the quarterback to those other guys so they could make plays."

About the Author


School: University of Arizona

When you started with Bonneville Phoenix: Fall 2008, right before Cardinals Super Bowl run

Favorite sports memory: Being at Game 7 of the 2001 World Series with my dad

Favorite all-time athlete: Larry Centers

Favorite sports movies: The Sandlot, Rookie of the Year, Jerry Maguire

Most crushing sports moment: Grew up in Arizona and went to UA from 2002-06. In short, there are too many to name just one.

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