No man is an island, unless you happen to play left tackle in the National Football League.
Jonah Williams of the Cincinnati Bengals just so happens to be one of those select few who is charged with one of the heaviest responsibilities there is — protect your quarterback’s blind side.
- Height: 6-foot-4
- Weight: 312 pounds
- Age: 24
- College: Alabama
- Hometown: Atlanta, GA
- Experience: 4th year
Williams is entering the fourth year of his four-year rookie contract. He’s eligible for a long-term extension, and the fifth-year option for the 2024 season has been exercised. For 2022, his cap hit is $5.6 million.
Most quarterbacks are right-handed, which means when they set to throw, their back is turned toward the left side of their line. So, if your left tackled misses a block, that gives a defender a free shot at the quarterback, and increases the likelihood of injury to the most important player on the team.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is right-handed, and Williams is the man who is primarily charged with keeping him clean, and keeping him healthy.
In 2021, Williams managed to keep himself healthy after missing all of his rookie season with a torn labrum and only playing in 10 games in his sophomore season of 2020.
Last year, though, Williams was on the field for all 20 games, and finished as the league’s 35th best offensive tackle, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). He was called for only four penalties, surrendered eight sacks and finished with an overall grade of 77.1. PFF has explained its grades this way: 100-90 elite; 89-85 Pro Bowler; 84-70 starter; 69-60 backup; 59-0 replaceable.
Williams’ run-blocking grade was 79.8, but his pass-blocking grade was only 68.8.
“I think I played well,” Williams said in an interview with Bengals.com. “I think that I wasn’t causing a lot of problems from the left tackle spot, but I certainly know that I can improve and that’s my goal everyday this offseason. Coming in now and working all the way through training camp into the season and just get a little bit better every day.”
While Williams’ play certainly did not qualify as elite, he was not a liability. The rest of the line, on the other hand . . . .
Burrow was sacked 51 times in the regular season, and another 19 times in the playoffs, including a record nine times by the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Divisional Round and a record-tying seven times in the Super Bowl loss.
“Of course we didn’t play well enough,” Williams said. “I think that’s obvious when you look at the stats and look at the outcome of the game,” Williams said. “I think everyone in the locker room understands that and we know we want to get to that stage again and we want to perform a lot better the next time that we’re there so that’s our goal, that’s what we’re working towards.”
Outlook for 2022
Cincinnati took a step in the right direction with the free-agent signings of right tackle La’el Collins, center Ted Karras and right guard Alex Cappa. With Williams anchoring the left tackle position.
Now, the only question mark remains at left guard. Solving that question could mean the ticket to another Super Bowl appearance. Getting better play out of this spot would certainly make life easier for Williams.
All told, Williams should be one of the NFL’s better left tackles in 2022 so long as he continues to develop. Remember, he missed his entire rookie season (2019), didn’t have a real 2020 offseason due to COVID-19, and only played 10 games that year due to injury.
There’s reason to believe we’ve not yet seen the best version of Jonah Williams.
Roster odds: 100%.