With a three-way battle underway to claim the starting safety job opposite of Reggie Nelson, Rookie Shawn Williams, selected by the Bengals in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft, took first-team snaps with the defense on Friday. Williams is competing with second-year safety George Iloka and Taylor Mays, who took a majority of defense's first-team snaps on Thursday.
Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer tried to quiet expectations that Williams will start in Chicago during the team's rookie minicamp several months ago. "We know what he can do in run support," Zimmer said in May, "now we have to see if he can cover. He has the ability to cover, he just has to (do it). He has to work on his technique some. If he gets his body position in good shape, he should be good."
Williams, with an impressive memory, quickly absorbed the team's playbook during the offseason.
"I've got a great memory and that helps me with the playbook," says Williams, who points to his recent performance in Cincinnati's neurophysiology exam that sets the baseline for concussion treatment. "They said I was off the charts when it came to the visuals. I never forget a face. I'm not that good with names, but I never forget a face. That's kind of how I picture the playbook."
That doesn't mean others within the position battle are being forgotten. George Iloka, selected in the fifth-round of the 2012 NFL draft, had a great play during 11-on-11 sessions by stretching out and tipping a completion "away from tight end Alex Smith."