Before you grab your pitchforks and head to the comments section, hear me out. Shawn Williams best position is easily safety. He and Jessie Bates make a formidable duo on the back end. However, watching the linebackers give up passes to running backs and tight ends as opposing offenses nickel and dime their way down the field has gotten really old.
If things get bad enough this season, Cincinnati could use Williams as a bandage at linebacker until they have the opportunity to draft one next offseason or one of the youngsters develops.
Coming out of college, the former Georgia Bulldog was deemed an in the box safety. Williams already provides major run support for the Cincinnati defense. By rolling him down into a hybrid linebacker/safety role, he provides much needed athleticism and coverage ability.
Williams doesn’t even need to play this role full time. He could simply roll down in the nickel defense. Rather than watching one of the linebackers get burnt by a back on almost every third down, see what Williams can do and risk a bigger back breaking his tackle. Defenses regularly take undersized defensive ends and kick them inside on passing downs. There should be no reason the team couldn’t try a similar thing with Williams for his pass coverage ability.
By bringing the 28 year old into the box, the overall strength of the defense improves. Their nickel defense would have tremendous coverage ability and the Bengals can avoid trotting out Hardy Nickerson, Jordan Evans, or Preston Brown to cover shifty players.
This scenario should be a last ditch effort. The Bengals should turn to one of their young linebackers before turning to Williams. Still, if the defense does not improve from last year, the Bengals could benefit from trying to come up with a creative solution and seeing what they have in Williams at linebacker. At the very least, he should be considered an insurance policy in case of injury.