The Cincinnati Bengals have lost Shawn Williams to what looks like a serious elbow injury. The play during which the injury occurred came early in the second quarter of Saturday’s preseason matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs.
You can view a video of the injury here, but be warned that it’s not pretty. It looks like a long-term injury that could threaten Williams’ availability this season. The Bengals are already without fellow starting safety George Iloka, who is sitting out this preseason game due to a hyperextended knee. Iloka was able to return to practice this week, but he only did limited work as he works to get healthy enough to play in Week 1 of the regular season.
Williams, now entering his fifth NFL season, has been a starting safety since 2016, though he’s had a significant role in this defense for several years when playing behind Iloka and the since departed Reggie Nelson. Williams is a hard-hitting safety that puts fear into any receiver willing to come across the middle of this defense. He’s also become a reliable defensive back in coverage after that was a weakness early in his career.
Last season, Williams recorded 81 tackles, three interceptions and one sack, while grading out as one of the best strong safeties in the game according to Pro Football Focus and The Bleacher Report’s NFL 1000.
The Bengals gave Williams a four-year, $20,185,000 contract extension that included a $2,000,000 signing bonus, $4,000,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $5,046,250. That’s decent money for a starting safety, and Williams was a valuable memeber of this defense before this injury. He had previously missed just one game in his first four NFL seasons, but it looks like he’ll miss significant time in 2017.
Assuming Williams misses at least the first part of the regular season, that leaves either Derron Smith or Clayton Fejedelem to start in his place next to Iloka. Both Fejedelem and Smith have had nice camps, though neither safety has seen extended playing time in the regular season.
Earlier Saturday, the Bengals waived reserve safety Cedric Thompson with an injury settlement. That means Smith, Fejedelem and Demetrious Cox are the only healthy safeties right now, though cornerback Josh Shaw can play safety as well.
I think it’s all but guaranteed the Bengals add another safety very soon, if for no other reason than an extra body for the remainder of the preseason.
But more importantly, Williams is hopefully alright and will recover from this injury sooner rather than later.