The Bengals’ offensive line is arguably their weakest position group. They’re relying on the development of their young guys to protect rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. No one will bear that burden more than Jonah Williams.
The 2019 first-round pick missed all of last season with a torn labrum. Williams is going to start at left tackle. His next NFL snap will be his first, as the second-year lineman is in charge of protecting Burrow's blindside.
The coaching staff believe Williams is ready for the challenge.
"He was in every meeting [last year]. He was working on his own. He is well prepared to take that spot," Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said. "He's going to be a rookie in some regards, because he hasn't played yet, so the play part of it has to happen quick. We have to get pads on and play football. That kind of goes for everybody on offense really. As far as everything he's done up to this point he does not look or feel like a rookie at all."
Williams also took to the weight room and trained with former 49ers and Pro Bowl tackle Joe Staley in San Diego this offseason.
The future Hall of Famer praised Williams earlier this week.
"This dude put so much diligent work in with me this offseason," Staley said. "Can’t wait to watch him break out. Just work. It pays"
That's just one of the many signs that the former 11th overall pick is going to bring consistency to the left tackle position. It's something that hasn't been done since Andrew Whitworth signed with the Rams in 2017.
"He got a year to reshape his body," Callahan said. "He looks like a pro, he doesn't look like a college kid anymore. His build and physique he kind of changed, not completely, but he walked up to get tested when he first got here I was like, 'Woo, hey, Jonah it's good to see you man.' He worked as hard as anybody last year."
Now a couple weeks into training camp, Williams is turning heads. He's set the tone for an offensive line with a lot to prove. He's gone up against Carlos Dunlap, Sam Hubbard and Carl Lawson regularly, as he continues to prepare for his first NFL game.
"I'm really honored that the coaches are giving me that opportunity and that they believe in me to do that [start at left tackle]," Williams said. "I don't really see it as pressure so much as I'm just grateful. I see it as an opportunity, and that motivates me."
Williams will make his NFL debut in just a couple of weeks against the Chargers. There's plenty of pressure on him to perform at a high level. If training camp is any indication, he's going to deliver.
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