DeShawn Williams likes working next to rookie tackle Andrew Billings (above).
Defensive tackle DeShawn Williams and defensive line coach Jacob Burney are two guys that don't have to impress rookies. But they did anyway at this weekend's Bengals rookie minicamp.
Williams is one of 11 first-year players taking part after spending all last season on the practice squad following what was the most impressive training camp by any of their undrafted rookies. Burney is in his 23rd season coaching NFL defensive lines and this is his first in Cincinnati.
Williams has bustled through the drills showing the kids the ropes and the Bengals why they thought so highly of him while Burney's energy has rippled up and down the line. Burney hasn't altered his style from the vets to the rookies. His booming voice can usually be heard disciplining a little thing.
Williams says there's a subtle change to the technique he's teaching. Burney stresses being square, he says, and he's been harping on technique because that doesn't fail in a game when everyone is tired.
"He'll tell you what's right or wrong. He gets on you," Williams said. "I have to do what I did last preseason and take it to another level now that I have a new coach to impress.
My teammates know what I can do. Marv (Lewis) and Paulie (Guenther) know what I can do. It's up there for grabs. I have to go in like I went last year. Be humble, hungry and be the underdog."
Williams didn't get the call until the week after the season, when he replaced defensive tackle Brandon Thompson on the roster when Thompson tore his ACL in the regular-season finale. Williams was inactive for the Wild Card Game, but he did get something.
"I got the taste of a game check and I know I want another one," he said.
So he hardly ever went home to South Carolina as he vies to be on the Opening Day roster. He took a week off before reporting back to Cincinnati and Ignition Sports, the Blue Ash, Ohio gym run by Liftin' Clifton Marshall that trains draft prospects and pro players. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins and nose tackle Domata Peko advised him on that with Atkins telling him an Ignition offseason jump-started his first Pro Bowl season.
It got to the point where Marshall had to tell Williams to take the weekends off because he was doing extra work away from the facility. He spent a lot of time with Marshall's hands man, Ben Creamer, doing combat and boxing drills.
"He's got speed, leverage, hands," Marshall says. "But most importantly he's got passion and heart. That can't be coached."
He's also got enough of Atkins' frame and speed that he earned the nickname, "Baby Geno," last year at 6-1, 295. Atkins is known for his initial burst, but Williams' first 10 yards of his pro day 40-yard dash (1.71) was actually a bit quicker than Atkins' 10 at the scouting combine (1.75). For two very large men, those are astounding numbers.
In fact, Burney has watched Williams move so well that he told him he can stand to put on a couple of more pounds for 300.
If Williams is "Baby Geno," then fourth-round pick Andrew Billings may be "Vince Jr.," as in monstrous Texans nose tackle Vince Wilfork. Billings, the Waco Weigh Station, has already opened up some eyes.
"That's a big old boy. That's a big power lifter guy," Williams said. "He's very solid. You look at him and you think he can't move, but he can move pretty well . . . He's going to be a great player. He's a nose tackle who can get some double teams. Matter of fact, when he gets a one-on--one block, he'll punish some centers."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: The conventional wisdom is that Thompson starts the season on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) and will be back for the seventh game at home against Cleveland. He said Saturday he's not giving himself a timetable . . .
Sixth-rounder Cody Core became the first draft pick to sign his contract Friday night after getting carted off the field with a cramp. But he said Saturday he was ready to go.
Cincinnati Bengals host rookie minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium practice fields 5/6/2016