Entering his eighth year with the Cincinnati Bengals, safety Shawn Williams is still a centerpiece for Lou Anarumo’s defense.
There was a brief moment this offseason where it appeared that long time Cincinnati Bengals safety Shawn Williams could have been on his way out the door. The front office had gone on a spending spree in free agency, and one of their acquisitions was the 25-year-old Vonn Bell, who plays the same position as Williams.
Moving on from Williams, one of the team’s best leaders, was the last thing on the mind of Zac Taylor and company, according to Bengals.com Senior Writer Geoff Hobson,
"“They didn’t go into free agency looking for a starting strong safety. They went in looking to get as many good players as they could and when Bell was left bobbing on top of the first wave with a reasonable $18 million deal for three seasons, the Bengals grabbed him in a resourceful find.”"
It was an extremely smart move for a Bengals team that fielded a defense that ranked 29th in generating turnovers. Snatching Bell from a New Orleans Saints squad that ranked 2nd in taking the ball away in 2019 will surely help Cincinnati win the turnover battle moving forward. On his own, Bell generated two forced fumbles and recovered five others just last year.
Playing time predicament
Cincinnati now finds themselves in a predicament when it comes to playing time. Jessie Bates III is simply too good to ever take off the field. He’s the best in coverage between the three starting-caliber safeties and he’s just beginning to realize his full potential, which looks to be astronomical. So how do things shake out between Bell and Williams at the other safety position?
"“I don’t know how that plays out. I don’t even think they know right now because they haven’t really seen Vonn do anything and that’s no knock on Vonn…I’m confident they’ll figure how to use him and use me and everybody is going to be happy.”"
Although Williams is unsure of his role at this moment, the good news is, his hybrid skillset fits perfectly in the modern NFL. Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo was able to use him at linebacker last season due to his size and his affinity for handing out hard hits. On the other side of the coin, he was able to drop back in coverage as a typical safety would because he possesses the necessary coverage skills. Fans can expect more of the same in the Bengals next campaign.
Make no mistake about it, Williams will still get plenty of playing time. When the third-downs come, Williams and Bell will both be on the field and give the Bengals the ability to matchup extraordinarily well in coverage. This offseason was full of change and the next time the orange and black suit up, there will be plenty of new faces but one fact still remains: Shawn Williams will be at the center of it all.