Cincinnati Bengals: How Will Shawn Williams Be Utilized at the Safety Position?

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIMay 6, 2013

Shawn Williams should be able to contribute instantly in the Bengals' secondary.
Shawn Williams should be able to contribute instantly in the Bengals' secondary.Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

With the 84th pick in the 2013 NFL draft, the Cincinnati Bengals selected former Georgia Bulldogs safety Shawn Williams. This third-round selection is expected to start immediately at the strong safety position in 2013.

Many fans thought the Bengals would select a safety sooner in the draft; however, waiting for Williams in the third round may have been a smart move.

Williams is known to be a hard-hitting safety that lacks a bit of range in coverage but is not as stiff-hipped as some other prospects. Waiting on his selection allowed the Bengals to become a more explosive team offensively early on in the draft.

So, how will Williams be utilized by the Bengals during his rookie campaign this coming season?

The Bengals have been searching for a suitable complement to free safety Reggie Nelson for quite some time now. Last year, four different players were used at this position—Taylor Mays, Jeromy Miles, Nate Clements and Chris Crocker— and none were successful.

Mays and Miles still need development and may never be able to start at the NFL level. Clements and Crocker are free agents with little chance of being re-signed.

Enter Williams.

During his tenure at Georgia, Williams showed great tackling ability and tenacity in the box. He has been fantastic in run support and as an extra blitzer. These are his strengths, and the Bengals will utilize his abilities.

Nelson is a great safety in coverage and can patrol center field. He will continue to do so in 2013. Williams will be asked to maintain coverage in certain schemes but will be used for his tackling abilities while he continues to develop.

The pairing of Williams and Nelson can be closely compared to the former Baltimore Ravens duo of Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard.

Reed was known to be a ball hawk and played nicely as a center fielder. Pollard was more of a hard-hitting safety that could be used in blitz packages and in run support. Bengals fans can expect this type of treatment with Cincinnati's safety duo this coming season.

Let's take a look at a play that highlights the strengths of these two safeties at the NFL level. This play is from the 2012 season when Reed and Pollard were both starting at safety for the Ravens.

Pollard is highlighted here as he is covering the weak side of the field, while Reed remains deep on the strong side.


A wide receiver from the Oakland Raiders motions over to Reed's side of the field. This leaves Pollard's side empty. He starts to creep toward the line of scrimmage and shows a blitz.


The Ravens' corners are in man coverage, while Reed remains deep to patrol a wide zone in front of him. Pollard remains in the box on the weak side.


After the ball is snapped, Pollard begins to rush the passer on a delayed blitz through a gap created by the outside linebacker. Reed watches the quarterback and maintains focus on the wide receivers headed in his direction.


The receivers remain in tight man-coverage as Reed continues to backpedal in order to keep the play in front of him. Pollard continues through the gap on his blitz.


Pollard makes initial contact with the quarterback as Reed does a nice job as the deep safety. Reed keeps his body rotated toward the receiver crossing over the middle, but he remains in good position in front of the outside receiver.


Pollard shows his strength and wrestles the quarterback down for the sack. This sack happened due to Pollard's ability to find the fastest path to the quarterback while Reed maintained his position in coverage to allow the play to develop.


This is only one small example, but the Bengals should be utilizing Williams and Nelson in the same way.

Williams brings a toughness to the defense that will be a solid upgrade over the personnel at his position last season. The Bengals' secondary has improved greatly due to this third-round selection and should continue to dominate in 2013.


All screen shots courtesy of NFL Game Rewind.