For the fourth straight year the Bengals took a Georgia player in the fourth round or higher Friday night when they selected safety Shawn Williams in the third round. The 5-11, 213-pound Williams is known as more of a box safety, but the Bengals have always liked the way Georgia players improve when they get to the NFL as the club continues to try and find a player to start opposite safety Reggie Nelson.
Although he's the highest drafted safety since Madieu Williams went in the second round in 2004, Shawn Williams isn't being projected as a starter yet.
"We're not putting anybody anywhere in the mix to start," Lewis said. "Let them play and see what happens."
Lewis, of course, likes his safeties to do both when it comes to covering and supporting the run and he joked about Williams's rep as a box safety, "That would be good. We've got a good field safety in Reggie. We've got one of each."
But he also said of Williams, "We feel good about him. When you're a young player like that, he's doing what is asked of him in that defense. I would say they had two box safeties at Georgia. Their safeties were physical players."
But the Bengals had Williams rated higher than his teammate, Bacarri Rambo. Williams fits that Lewis M.O: Productive in a big setting. He led the team in tackles in 2011 in 12 starts and then came back last season as a captain to make 98 in 14 starts. Pro Football Weekly says, "Well respected by coaches and teammates."
"We like his size, he's faster, he's the field leader, the field general," Bengals secondary coach Mark Carrier said of the Rambo comparison. "I think he's a better tackler."
But it's going to come down to how Williams can cover as he battles veterans like Taylor Mays and Jeromy Miles and the untried Tony Dye for the job. What Williams has going for him is that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer likes his smarts and Carrier likes that he's played under a former NFL coordinator.
"One thing you like about this kid, he played in an NFL style defense with Todd Grantham as the defensive coordinator," Carrier said. "He barked out a lot of signals that gives you a lot of different looks and they have a lot of guys in this draft. One thing I like and fits right in with our room is he's not afraid to stick his face in the fire. That's a big deal for our room. If you want to play for us, you have to be ready to go hit somebody."
The Bengals have taken five Georgia players in the last four drafts and this one isn't half over. Since Lewis came on board in 2003, they've taken eight Bulldogs.
"The coaching staff under Coach (Mark) Richt has done a great job teaching them to play aggressive, tackling football," Lewis said. "They're no-nonsense guys. We really like their work ethic and how they carry themselves as young men and people. ... They're trained the right way."