End of 2012: Reggie Nelson, Chris Crocker, Taylor Mays, Jeromy Miles, George Iloka, Tony Dye (IR), Robert Sands (IR)
Start of 2013: Reggie Nelson, Taylor Mays, Shawn Williams*, Jeromy Miles, George Iloka, Tony Dye
Quick experiments last year fielded negative results. Taylor Mays, Jeromy Miles, and even Nate Clements failed to produce as starting safeties, forcing the team to re-sign the familiar Chris Crocker three games deep into the season.
Fast-forward one year later. Crocker is a free agent, Robert Sands has been released and the team drafted Shawn Williams in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft.
Let's not go crazy with upgrades. That would be too much to ask.
Safety has always been a head-scratching position for fans, who are noticing that the Bengals tend to approach the position less seriously than others. Over the previous three drafts, Cincinnati has selected three safeties and only one, Williams, was picked before the fifth round. Madieu Williams is the only safety that Cincinnati has selected in the first two rounds during the Marvin Lewis era. The inactive determination to upgrade safety has led to the team starting veterans well beyond their prime, like Ifeanyi Ohalete, Dexter Jackson, and Roy Williams.
Comparing this squad to last year is almost like looking into a mirror. Competing with Taylor Mays this year is Williams and Jeromy Miles. A battle that figures to be settled during training camp.