May 10, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals third round draft pick safety Shawn Williams (40) listens to defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, right, during the Bengals rookie minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
With less than a month left before the season opener vs. the Chicago Bears, there are a number of positional battles that will ensue as roles on this team have yet to be determined. Whether it be starting spot, a backup role, or that last receiver who makes the roster, the next month of football will go a long way in determining which players are not only able to make the roster, but how much they will play when the 2013 NFL Season begins.
The biggest positional battle that will ensue is the starting strong safety spot. With George Iloka out tonight with a wrist injury after being named the starting safety opposite Reggie Nelson, Taylor Mays will get the start.
The Bengals had high expectations for former Georgia Bulldog Shawn Williams. After drafting him tn the third-round of this year’s NFL Draft, he was immediately being projected to be the opening-day starting strong safety, but has been unable to pass Mays or Iloka on the depth chart up to this point. He was given a lot of first-team reps during OTAs, and the coaching staff frequently praised him, but also noted the rookie learning curve could eventually hinder him.
It appears as though that’s been the case in training camp, but it’s still early, and the safety spot is tougher to learn in Mike Zimmer’s system, so maybe he’s still a ways from earning a starting job.
It’s also unclear if Williams is suffering from some kind of injury, which could be hindering his play. If you recall, Williams suffered a non-contact leg injury that had him limping after practice a few weeks ago, and it was forgotten soon thereafter.
It’s also worth pointing out that Iloka’s injury isn’t believed to be long-term, so he could easily come back and win the starting job before the regular season opens in two weeks.