Bengals specials teams coordinator Darrin Simmons has been one of the best in the game when it comes to taking backups and fringe roster players and helping them make an impact in the NFL.
In an analysis of team rankings in 10 "major categories" of special teams play, conducted by Bengals.com, the Bengals finished first in the NFL in 2012 for highest average ranking.
One player Simmons is high on to carry the torch in 2014 is second-year safety Shawn Williams, who can play on any special teams unit Simmons needs him on.
"He’s very intense. He’s someone I respect because he’s very smart," Simmons said, via Bengals.com. "He pays attention in every meeting. For young guys who haven’t played on special teams as much, they come in here and put in so much effort just learning their position. Sometimes it takes them awhile to get the whole feel of the grand scheme and how they fit. I could put Shawn at virtually any position in any phase and he would do fine because he has a grand scope of understanding.
"All these guys are four-phase players, and Shawn’s a five, so that’s like starting five personnel groupings and they have to learn five unique skill sets (kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return, field goal block), so that’s five completely different positions. To absorb all that and to learn all that and be able to be effective is a big thing."
Williams is facing more competition at safety now with veteran Danieal Manning now on the roster to go with seventh-round cornerback/safety Lavelle Westbrooks. Listening to Simmons though, it sounds like Williams is doing everything he needs to in order to retain his spot on the 53-man roster ion 2013.
Simmons was not quite as praiseworthy of second-year receiver Cobi Hamilton, who spent all of last year on the practice squad after being selected in the sixth round out of Arkansas.
He singled out Hamilton as someone who needs to step up to avoid letting someone like seventh-round James wright take his roster spot:
"He’s (Wright) another option that we can put in the competition. Don’t forget, we have Ryan Whalen, a tough, hard player who’s had experience at playing at that position. Cobi (Hamilton) is somebody who has to get going here and get on board."
As for veteran receiver Brandon Tate and keeping him as the primary return-man:
"I’ve been to war with Tate for a while. I’ll go back."