The Bengals had offensive line issues long before they watched Andrew Whitworth move west, but that and the loss of Kevin Zeitler made the position a major liability.
They originally tried to replace Whitworth with Cedric Ogbuehi, but that was a foolish endeavor. Last offseason, they acted aggressively to try to improve the offensive line and, in part, repair that blunder. They signed Bobby Hart to play right tackle and parlayed their first-round draft pick into center Billy Price and left tackle Cordy Glenn with the help of a trade with the Buffalo Bills. Hart did not impress, but Glenn was at least an upgrade. The jury is still out on Price.
This year in another bold move, they spent the 11th overall draft pick on Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams. This made Williams the first offensive lineman taken in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Williams was seen by many as the top offensive tackle in the draft, and for good reason. He did an excellent job as a run blocker for the Crimson Tide throughout his career and developed into an excellent pass blocker as a junior in 2018.
Let’s take a look at what Williams can do from the left tackle position.
Williams has a great kick step which he demonstrates in the clip below. He keeps his hips and shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and gains depth. Once the rusher gets to his hip making it nearly impossible for him to make an inside move, Williams turns and engages. The defender has no chance of beating Williams with speed, and attempts a spin move which takes him right into his own teammate.
So why was it important for Williams to keep his hips square in the clip above?
Because in man protection, he is responsible for his man whether he rushes the edge or stunts to the inside gap. The clip below gives an example of this.
Williams starts with a kick step, but quickly recognizes that the defender is rushing the B gap (to his inside) so he switches to the post step. This takes him forward and inside. The defender gets some initial penetration, but Williams is able to recover and get his body between the rusher and the quarterback.
One of the best things that an edge rusher can do is strike the offensive tackle with their hands initiating a power move that they can then counter off of. Williams is having none of it here. When the defender strikes him, he immediately chops with both hands breaking the defenders grip, throwing off his balance, and not allowing him to use his length.
“Said woman take it slow, and it’ll work itself out fine. All we need is just a little patience.” I’m fairly certain Axl Rose was not talking about offensive line play when he sang these words for the 1988 Guns N’ Roses song “Patience,” but he could have been.
Patience is important to an offensive tackle. It is of paramount importance that he not turn too fast for fear of a speedy edge rusher. In the clip below, Williams starts to turn as the rusher approaches his hip, but he doesn’t bring his inside leg all the way around. This leaves him in good position when the rusher attempts a spin move back to the inside. Williams is patient, and simply slides to the inside to re-engage on the block as the defender comes around.
If he had overcommitted to the edge, he would not have been able to make this adjustment.
On this play, The edge defender immediately loops to the inside. Williams is on the slide side of the protection. Essentially, this means he is playing zone, not man. So he lets the defender go and keeps his eyes up. This is a blitz and the defender rushing the edge comes from space with a big head of steam. Williams is able to pick him up and use his momentum to push him right past the quarterback.
Slants, loops, and stunts in the defensive front force offensive linemen to adjust on the fly. As the edge defender slants to the inside in this clip, Williams passes him off to the guard and picks up the inside linebacker who has looped around to blitz to the outside.
Williams shows his strength as a run blocker on this down block. He engages with good leverage and strikes with his hands tight. He keeps his feet moving on contact and drives his opponent down field. The defender is eventually able to shake off the block and get involved in the tackle, but only after Alabama has gained close to a first down.
This is a counter play with the right guard and H-back pulling to the left side. Williams is once again blocking down, but this time he is responsible for blocking a linebacker. He works up to the second level and just as he reaches the linebacker he chops his feet and lowers his hips to ensure that he attacks the defender with proper leverage. This is similar to the way that a defender might breakdown before attempting a tackle when coming from space. Williams engages and follows through with his hips opening up a nice hole for the running back.
Williams is on the backside of this run play. His first steps put his head into the gap between the defender and the ball carrier, From there he is able to work his body in front and turn his hips to completely cut off the defensive end on this backside reach block.
Williams is an extremely talented player who should start at tackle for the Bengals immediately. He gets great movement in the run game and might be the best pass blocker on the roster from day one. He played against an extremely high level of competition and matched up well against fellow first-round picks Clelin Ferrell and Montez Sweat.
By drafting Williams the Bengals took a huge step towards finally repairing an offensive line that has struggled for years. He has all the makings of a franchise left tackle.