Cincinnati Bengals top pick Jonah Williams recently underwent surgery to repair a torn left shoulder labrum and is likely to miss his rookie season, the team announced Tuesday.
Williams, the 11th overall pick in April's draft, appeared poised to protect Andy Dalton's blind side from Day One. Now, the Bengals must prepare for life without their top rookie, which is certainly nothing new for the organization.
“We look forward to Jonah being a major contributor in the future, and know that he won’t let this injury deter him from still being an important part of this team,” new head coach Zac Taylor said in a statement released by the team. “We’re confident in our offensive line personnel as we head into training camp, and we believe they can do their part in helping this team achieve its goals.”
The news regarding Williams, the ex-All-American standout from Alabama, is a brutal start to the Taylor era, especially because it's eerily similar to the way Marvin Lewis' tenure came to an end with the Bengals suffering disastrous results with the health of their recent rookies.
Billy Price, last year's first-rounder, was selected after tearing his pectoral muscle at the 2018 combine and struggled through an up-and-down debut campaign that included a foot injury last fall. John Ross, whom Cincinnati selected No. 9 overall two years ago, has appeared in only 16 combined games in his first two seasons, when a player who entered the league with durability concerns has been routinely hurt.
William Jackson III, the first-round cornerback in 2016, missed his rookie season after an August pectoral tear. Cedric Ogbuehi, selected 21st overall in 2015 after missing his final season at Texas A&M with a knee injury, has essentially been a giant medical red flag in the NFL.
It's only fair to point out that Williams was a picture of consistency and dependability at Alabama and considered one of the premier values of the first round of this year's draft. Of course, it's also only fair to mention that, bad luck or not, the Bengals have arguably gotten as little from their premium draft choices over the past handful of years as any club in the NFL. That's a big part of the reason Taylor inherits a team with 19 combined regular season wins over the past three seasons and is approaching three decades since its last playoff victory.
The loss of Williams is tough to overstate with Taylor looking to reboot the Bengals offense under lame duck QB Andy Dalton, who in a make-or-break year has an explosive skill group but little in the way of reliable blocking up front. The good news is the Bengals have Cordy Glenn, who can kick back over to the left after ceding that spot to Williams. The bad news is it creates a hole that Bobby Hart is unlikely to capably plug, and the Bengals have separate issues inside with uninspired alternatives including Hart's fellow former Giant cast-off John Jerry and ex-Bills disappointment John Miller.
Lest we forget, one of the more underrated elements of the Rams offensive renaissance the past two seasons, when Taylor worked closely under Sean McVay with Jared Goff, was the impressive wholesale O-line changes, headlined by 2017 vet signee Andrew Whitworth. Williams had a chance to create a similarly big impact for the Bengals, but now that plan seemingly will go on the back burner until 2020, when he could be preparing to block a new quarterback.