Like many fans expressing modest ignorance regarding a player, when the Cincinnati Bengals selected Georgia safety Shawn Williams in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft, my opening reaction of confusion quickly sustained into growing optimism. Coverage. Tight ends. Running backs. Issues that the Bengals defense has seemingly struggled to resolve, resolved to a simpler ultimatum to the NFL and AFC North that "you shall not run".
Then again with Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap, James Harrison and Geno Atkins, along with Wallace Gilberry and prospects Sean Porter and Margus Hunt (who will develop), why worry about coverages when the quarterback is scrambling for his life?
Cincinnati artistically worked their defense this year with an impressive obsession of stuffing the running game by selecting Williams on Friday. Cleveland sports a talented Trent Richardson. Baltimore with one of the best running backs in the NFL in Ray Rice and the Pittsburgh Steelers finally upgraded with Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell. Instead of reacting to the division's catch-up plan to promote talented running backs, Cincinnati jumped ahead of the curve grabbing a physical enforcer-level safety.
"I do pride myself in being very physical," Williams told reporters on Saturday. "That’s the only way I know how to play the game — hard and physical. I just try to put fear in the offense that I’m going against. Put fear in them and make them have to account for me all the time. Make the wide receivers and running backs know that they’re going to get hit. I just try to make a big play."
He's not Taylor Mays. Williams has shown on film much better body control and discipline, along with "professional attitude, work ethic, and IQ on the field," describes resident draft expert Joe Goodberry.
"Cincinnati (a team that is quite familiar with UGA players by now) should expect a kid with a whole lot of grit, that became a two year starter at UGA by flat out taking the job and never letting it go," writes Ludakit at SB Nation's Georgia Bull Dog site Dawg Sports. "Don't forget the fact that it was Williams that called UGA's defense "soft" and could be credited with the turnaround mid-season on the Dawgs' D. Personally, I'm a fan of Shawn Williams and I'll miss him in a UGA uniform, but I believe wholeheartedly that he will be successful in the NFL and Cincinnati got a steal with him in the late Third Round.
"The real key is whether or not he'll be able to keep up with a slot receiver or tight end at the next level," writes DawgSports.com. "The one thing I do know is that Williams is a natural leader, and natural in the sense that you will not out hustle him, and you will not out work him. If you take a play off, he'll take your spot."
"Leadership is one thing that I do bring to the table," said Williams. "I try to be a leader that leads by example — go out, practice hard, prepare and just do the best that I can do. Hopefully that’s what I can bring to the table for the Bengals — be a player that’s going to come out hard each and every day. In the secondary, we’ll just try and make plays and ball like DBs do."
Along with the AFC North, the Bengals will face Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, Chicago's Matt Forte, Detroit's Reggie Bush, as well as Green Bay's draft picks Eddie Lacy and Jonathan Franklin. Run defense will be big this year.