One of the hardest positions to crack on the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster is the one at which Boom Williams is looking to begin his NFL career.
The running back unit figures to include Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard and second-round rookie Joe Mixon, all of whom have their spots secured. Veteran Cedric Peerman is likely to return as the special teams captain, too.
The Bengals will likely keep three or four running backs, though it’s possible Bernard opens the year on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list as he’s currently recovering from an ACL tear suffered in November.
Williams’ most likely career trajectory is to begin on the Bengals’ practice squad. Though, an impressive training camp and preseason could propel him to unseat Peerman. But for now, Williams is just enjoying life in the NFL.
One thing he’s enjoyed most with the Bengals is working with head coach Marvin Lewis, who is widely regarded as one of the most player-friendly coaches in the NFL.
"Marvin is a good guy and he's showed me some love since I've been here," Williams told LEX 18.
It’s nice Williams is making friends with the man who will decide his NFL fate in several months, but we’ve still got a ways to go before those decisions are made. It sounds like that’s good news for Williams, who is still getting used to the verbiage of an NFL offense.
"It's crazy, the play calls are much longer, so you have to be tuned in and listen in the huddle,” said Williams. “Another thing different for me is huddling because we didn't huddle at Kentucky. There has been a lot of things for me to focus on, and try to get in the playbook and study every night before I go to bed."
The former Kentucky running back was widely viewed as the Bengals’ best undrafted free agent signing, being that many draft experts projected him to be selected in this year’s NFL Draft. Heading into the draft, Williams was ranked 151st overall by ESPN’s Mel Kiper, which would have put him in the Round 5 range.
But Williams didn’t hear his name called and the Bengals quickly signed him after the draft ended. It was a bit of a surprise to see a draftable back sign with a team seemingly set at the position. However, the chance for Bernard to open the year on PUP while recovering from an ACL tear could be what gets Williams onto the 53-man roster. There’s also a chance he outperforms the aging Peerman for his job, though it seems unlikely (as of June) given the Bengals’ preference to keep proven veterans over unknown rookies.
Then again, we saw a rising undrafted free agent in Alex Erickson take the incumbent veteran Brandon Tate’s roster spot as a receiver/kick returner. Perhaps Williams can do the same if he shows he can make an impact on special teams while being a playmaker out of the backfield.