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Report: Bengals leaning toward William Jackson III receiving designation to return

The Bengals must decide soon whether to bring Cedric Peerman or William Jackson III back from I.R.

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NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Could William Jackson III play for the Bengals in his rookie season after all?

The rookie cornerback has spent the last three months recovering from a torn pectoral muscle suffered during the opening days of training camp. He was placed on Injured Reserve after the Bengals’ final roster cuts were made, which means he is eligible for the I.R. designation to return.

Only one player on I.R. can receive that designation, and veteran running back Cedric Peerman is also being considered for that. However, Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that the Bengals are leaning slightly toward Jackson getting the call.

But, should both be cleared medically, the feeling in the organization is that it will be Jackson III.

The rookie could contribute immediately on special teams and would give defensive coordinator Paul Guenther another corner to deploy if needed as he searches for a second-half spark for his unit.

In his time off, the rookie has been able to build his body in a way most rookies aren’t able to do. Jackson III says he’s added five pounds of muscle, and mentally has stayed sharp by focusing on techniques gleaned from film study.

It’s a tough situation that you hate to see for whoever ends up not getting the call, which means their season will officially be over, without appearing in a game this year.

Peerman, the team’s fourth running back and special teams ace, suffered a forearm fracture on Aug. 28 vs the Jaguars in the team’s third preseason game. He was going to make the roster as a fourth back, though his biggest impact has always been on special teams for the coverage units.

This isn’t going to be an easy call, nor will it be one the Bengals want to make. It’s hard to tell anyone their season is over, but that’s what they’ll have to do in the coming weeks.

If it is Peerman, hopefully the 30-year-old veteran comes back next year and returns to his old form. His contract expires at the end of the season, and he will become a free agent if he’s not re-signed before the new league year begins in March 2017.

As for Jackson, his addition would be a welcome one to a struggling defense that has seen lackluster cornerbacks play as a whole. It’s not crazy to think Jackson could push for playing time if he is brought back and active in a game. It looks like Jackson is taking the bye week to work out and test his ability on the practice field.

After all, he was the team’s first-round pick. You’d hate to see your team’s top pick not see the field as a rookie, but then again, we’re used to that by now in Cincinnati.