BB: Shawn Williams Vs. Taylor Mays And Some Hard Knockin'

Joe Robbins

There aren't many spots on the Bengals defense that could be defined as "open", except for one.

There aren't many open-ended questions about the Cincinnati Bengals roster on defense. Competition will pressure some players near the bottom, but for the most part this defense has their starting lineup set -- save for the unpredictable and frightening injuries. We know that Geno Atkins, Domata Peko, Michael Johnson and Robert Geathers will start on the defensive line -- and if not Geathers, then Carlos Dunlap (but I'll believe that when I see it). We know that the starting linebackers figure to be a combination of James Harrison, Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga. We also know that Leon Hall and Terence Newman will start at cornerback, and if the Bengals go with a five defensive back set, Adam Jones will join the secondary.

What we don't know is that while Reggie Nelson is clearly starting at free safety, who joins him?

"Whoever is in there we expect you to match the level of the other guys in the huddle," said defensive backs coach Mark Carrier tells FoxSportsOhio.com's Kevin Goheen. "It’s there to take but we’ve got to see the full slate, see the full package and see how it fits with our team. They all know whoever the guy is, or is not the guy, we’ve all got to get better."

It appears that that the position battle will boil down to Shawn Williams and Taylor Mays, who is entering the final year of his four-year contract after being selected in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft by San Francisco. Both appear to be stronger against the run with a question mark in coverage (well, liability might be a more suited term).

Mays feels better this year and knows that he has to improve.

Goheen writes:

Mays spent the offseason in California working to improve his flexibility and techniques like backpedaling. He said he's dropped some weight from the 230 pounds he was listed at last season. He wants to be able to move around the field better.

The Chris Crocker option is always on the table.

Either way if Mays finally bounces to respectable production in coverage, the Bengals would clearly be better of than what we've believed. But that's just something we'll have to see before blindly riding that bandwagon.

Ratting around the net.

+ ESPN takes a look at Paul Brown's coaching tree. A good read. Especially important for younger fans that know so little of this franchise, who created it that goes outside the more common Mike Brown era that's constantly on the tongues of national beat writers.

+ NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to make the process of cutting players more dignified, telling reporters after the NFL Spring Meeting in Boston that:

one of the focuses was the cutdown process as an example. How do we make the process more dignified? It is in some cases the last experience a player has with a team or any team in the NFL. So we have to do better job of doing that in a humane way and a way that will make sure they understand the respect we have for them and the pride we have in what they accomplished.

In other news, HBO is still looking for an NFL team for their popular Hard Knocks series. Oh, the good days. When Jim Lippincott walked into J.D. Runnels' room at 5:45 a.m., turned on the light, asked for the team's playbook and cut him on the spot. Now that's good television.

+ Steelers fifth-round pick, cornerback Terry Hawthorne was on crutches during Pittsburgh's OTA session on Wednesday. According to a Pittsburgh radio station, Hawthorne "had bone chips removed from his knee." Though not necessarily the same thing, the first thought that rattled in my impressive mind that science adores, was Dre Kirkpatrick.

+ Speaking of the Steelers, I agree with Tomlin. When asked if any players are impressing him during OTA practices, he bluntly said: "Not at all. Football in shorts." It's definitely a jab at the Collective Bargaining Agreement that prevents contact.

But we're preventing injuries here! Really? Ask Jim Harbaugh and every 49ers fan about that. San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree suffered a torn Achilles during Tuesday's practice. To which David Fucillo, Niners Nation site manager, writes, "Site decorum is off. F$&%!!!!!".

We kept this on the bottom.

From Wednesday's bacon on the recent trend of Andy Dalton postings:

"We grow irritated by the constant Dalton questions not because we are lying to ourselves, but because it is on this web site EVERY DAY!"

So, here's our opinion about Andy Dalton.

Kidding.

What. You expect us to talk about our starting quarterback who could be facing a make-or-break year with the greatest impact yet for the Bengals to date during a week full of practices? C'mon. You know me better than that.

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