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Cincinnati Bengals Player Preview: Safety Shawn Williams

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Will the 2nd-year safety make the leap from special teams stalwart to consistent starter?

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

Shawn Williams

Position: Safety

Height: 6' 0"

Weight: 216

Age: 23

College: Georgia

Hometown: Damascus, Georgia

Experience: 2 years

As a rookie 3rd round pick last season, many hoped he would step into a starting role at safety alongside Reggie Nelson.Unfortunately, most of his action came during special teams where he recorded 12 tackles in 16 games played, none of which were starts.

This lead the Bengals to resign Chris Crocker, who filled the position well given his experience and knowledge of the Bengals' defensive scheme, but the fact remains the Bengals need another safety to complement Nelson. Taylor Mays has thrilled many with his physical attributes, but his pass coverage skills have more-or-less turned him into a linebacker. George Iloka has contributed at times, but has failed to separate himself as a sure starter.

Williams displayed many of the necessary physical tools at the combine, posting a 4.46 forty-yard-dash along with benching 225 lbs 25 times, both towards the top end of his position. Even more impressive are his college leadership credentials - he was named the defensive captain during his final season at Georgia, a program that despite never quite living up to expectations in the college game, churns out NFL talent with the best of them (and the Bengals have obviously been one of primary beneficiaries of UGA's talent).

In addition to being the team's defensive captain, he earned the coaches' leadership award and the Frank Sinkwich toughness award. Clearly, Williams possesses the intangibles to become a leader on a defense already filled with great leadership.

This leads to the question of why did Williams not get significant playing time last season. It seems as if Williams is a high character guy with the physical traits to match, yet he failed to make a significant impact during his rookie season. A large part of this is likely due to the fact that he was a rookie safety on a team in "win-now mode", and as a result the coaches may have felt Crocker was the better fit to achieve this goal.

Williams has all the intangibles necessary to succeed as a starter in the NFL. On the other hand, his NFL.com combine scouting profile described his weaknesses heading into last season's draft as:

"Will go for the big shoulder hit or a cut block at times instead of wrapping. Gets locked up in the run game when failing to out-quick linemen or rip off more aggressive receivers. Lacks the ball skills and hands to come down with many interceptions. Doesn't have the lateral agility to consistently stay with tight ends or slot receivers."

Ultimately, Williams future production is uncertain - despite seemingly having all the intangibles necessary to succeed in the NFL, along with the physical traits, he played very little outside of special teams.

Despite Williams' impressive leadership credentials and impressive 40 and bench numbers at last season's combine, NFL.com's opinion may hold some weight, as he played very few minutes at safety last season despite the position being a team need. Perhaps a year in the NFL has helped improve his coverage weaknesses and he emerges as a starting safety for the 2014 Bengals, or maybe he simply becomes a very good special teams player.

Either way, I am sure he will be a positive factor during the upcoming Bengals' season, and as time progresses he should be able to hone his coverage skills to the point that he becomes a solid starter as an NFL safety.