For the second straight season, the Bengals spent their first round pick to upgrade the offensive line. This year is was offensive lineman Jonah Williams out of Alabama.
Williams was one of the top offensive tackle prospects in the draft, and many people didn’t think he would even be there for the Bengals to pick. Some wacky picks in the top-10 led to his fall, and with the Steelers trading up to the 10th overall pick to select linebacker Devin Bush, it became a pretty easy pick for Cincinnati.
Still, some concerns remain about where Williams’ ceiling as a player will be. Some believe that due to the length of his arms that he will never be anything more than a guard, but the Bengals see their franchise left tackle. Honestly, at this point the Bengals need a career offensive lineman at any position, so it really doesn’t matter too much.
One thing that really does set him apart from the Bengals’ last first round offensive tackle, Cedric Ogbuehi, is his unstoppable work ethic and commitment to his craft.
“I think I’m talented, athletic and strong. I think it all circles around to those. ...My approach to the game and my practice habits,“ Williams told reporters. “I’m really a perfectionist with my technique. That’s something I hang my hat on, which is just being able to go on the field and know that I know exactly what I need to do to beat the guy across from me. At the end of the day, it’s O-line. I can talk about all these numbers, stats and (other) things I try to keep, but at the end of the day, you have to go on the field and block someone. So that’s what I build my whole game around — making sure when I go to do that, I’m as ready as I can be.”
This is the exact mindset you want out of a guy who you hope to have for the next decade. You want a player who leaves no stone unturned and knows as much about the guy lining up across form him as possible.
It should also be noted that Williams also keeps an excel spreadsheet with all the data of guys he has faced. He also watches a ton of tape on himself as well.
“I had a head start on [watching film] in high school. I had great high school coaches who had film. And they had the end zone angle film, which not a lot of high school coaches have.” Williams said. “That allowed me to break down, from an offensive line standpoint, defensive structure, and to be able to become a perfectionist with my technique. Every time I watch a clip, I see something I could have done a little bit better,
“I think if you do that enough times, you start to get pretty refined. So a lot of it is just on my own, sitting there with the iPad, going over the film over and over again, seeing what I can do, and going out on the field and applying it the next day. Knowing that if I did something wrong, why did I do that? What was wrong with my hand placement, my footwork — things like that — and how I can fix that. I know when I watch that, I learn what I need to do, go on the field and apply what I just learned, and doing that enough days (in a row) until you get better.”
An underrated reason why this aspect of Williams is so important for the Bengals, is his ability to help younger guys in the future. He can be the guy in a few seasons that rookies and younger players flock towards or watch to see how a pro does it. He is the guy you want everyone in your offensive line room listening to. Coach on the field couldn’t describe this aspect of Williams any better.
Then came the time for Williams to choose his number. You’d think that it’d be an important decision for a rookie coming in, but Williams wasn’t too concerned about it. Although, his number’s origin does come from a player Bengals fans are pretty familiar with seeing twice a season.
“I actually didn’t really think about [if the no. 73 would be available] too much, until we went into the equipment room. They asked, ‘What number do you want?’, and I was like, ‘I guess 73 if it’s available,’ just thinking to take whatever number is available. They said it was, so I was pretty stoked about that, getting to keep that number. It’s a Bengals jersey, and that’s what I’m most excited about, no matter what the number is.”
“[The no. 73 was inspired by former-Browns’ offensive tackle Joe Thomas] was. I was 77 in high school but couldn’t do that at Alabama. Somebody already had that number, so I had to pick a different one. I wanted to be in the 70s, and I just couldn’t really pick. Then I realized that I really idolized him and watched a lot of his film, so if I’m going to pick a number in the 70s, it’ll might as well be that.”
Thomas was probably the best left tackle in football for a vast majority of his Browns’ career. You’d be hard pressed to find a better inspiration for an offensive tackle coming into the league. Cincinnati saw first-hand on several occasions just how good Thomas was. Hopefully Williams can help do the number proud.
Williams isn’t all technician though. We’ve talked at length about his intangibles and dedication to his craft, but he still has that controlled rage you look for in your offensive linemen. Something he can hopefully spread throughout the Bengals’ offensive line.
“Absolutely [I play with a different personality on the field]. I’m not a trash-talker, I’m not dirty or anything like that. My goal is to make person not want to keep lining up across from me,” Williams said. “I want them to ask to switch to the other side or ask to get a sub in. I’m pretty calm, pretty collected off the field, but I have a switch that I can turn on, and it’s a whole different deal when that happens.
“I think people try to put other people in boxes, especially in this draft process. A lot of people will put me in that technician, smart-guy box.” Williams continued. “That’s true and that’s something I pride myself on, but I’m also a lineman, and I want to get on the field, I want to impose my will on people, and I want to be part of a unit that does that to opposing defenses. There’s no better feeling than blocking up the D-line, driving them off the ball, being physical, seeing your running back make a play or seeing your quarterback get the ball out. That’s such a satisfying feeling as an offensive line.”
Williams should be quite at home with Cincinnati for a long time.