Two of the more significant injuries the Bengals encountered in the leadup to the 2016 season were a fractured forearm suffered by running back Cedric Peerman and a pectoral injury to rookie cornerback William Jackson III.
Both injuries were noted as being significant enough that they required a lengthy rehab process, but not so lengthy that each player couldn’t return at some point later in the season. Unfortunately, both players had to be listed on Injured Reserve and only one can return this season. The designation to return could have been given already as it allows a player to return to practice after six weeks of being on IR and to return to the active roster after eight weeks. We’re now into the 11th week of the season and as both players were put on IR ahead of Week 1, whichever player the Bengals decide to activate can re-join the roster at any time now. Though, the Bengals will need to release a player to make the move.
When the injuries happened, it seemed like returning special teams captain and Pro Bowler, Cedric Peerman, would be the player to return. With a decent amount of turnover on special teams in the offseason and the fact that Peerman was such an important leader for the unit, getting him back on the field seemed significantly more important than returning a rookie like Jackson, who would be playing at a very crowded cornerback position.
But, time has a way of changing situations. As of today, the Bengals are heading into Week 11 without much news about the return of either player, other than the fact that they seem to be leaning toward the return of Jackson III, per one report.
At this point, that would almost certainly be the best move for a Bengals team with major struggles in its secondary. Right now, the Bengals rank among the 10 worst teams in the NFL in terms of passing yards allowed per game (265.2), fourth worst in terms of yards allowed per pass (8.1), and eighth worst in interceptions (four). They are particularly bad at giving up big plays in the passing game, giving up the fifth most passing plays of 20+ yards (36), and the third most passing plays of 40+ yards (10).
Is a rookie like Jackson III going to magically turn this unit around from a bottom feeder to an elite unit? Probably not. But, it is in the Bengals’ best interest to add some talent to this extremely weak unit.
That’s not to say that a return from Peerman wouldn’t be extremely useful to the Bengals. The special teams unit has generally struggled this season. The Bengals have allowed the sixth most kick return yards (497) and the 10th most punt return yards (205). On the other side of the ball, they rank 24th in punt return yards gained (126). The blocking for kick returns has been admittedly solid which has resulted in the team putting up the seventh most kick return yards (470). But, the special teams unit as a whole clearly needs some guidance to help overcome their struggles.
Either way, the Bengals can only return one of these player from IR this year and, it is probably a better idea to return Jackson, the player who can provide some help in the secondary. It would also be ideal for Jackson to get some experience during his rookie year that can help him in the future. He is a first round pick after all, so the expectation for players drafted as high as he was is that they can come in and make a pretty immediate impact.
Ultimately, the Bengals’ decision on who will return from Injured Reserve will hinge on who is actually healthy. It wouldn’t make much sense to return Jackson if he is still dealing with issues related to his torn pectoral, as it also wouldn’t make sense to return Peerman if he is still suffering from his broken forearm. As we head into Week 11, there has been little news surrounding the rehabilitation of either player, so it’s hard to say exactly who, if either, is actually looking ready to return soon. Both have been on the rehab field, but, that’s about all we know.
Though, Jackson has hinted at his return...
We’ll need to wait and see what the Bengals decide. In the meantime, who would you rather see return this season?