An old, and somewhat cliched adage in sports says something about competition always being a positive for even the most stout of teams. Pete Carroll preaches it to his Seattle Seahawks, and it appears the Bengals are also embracing the idea, as evidenced by their first round selection of cornerback William Jackson III.
Cornerback is stacked with talent for the Bengals, including three other former first rounders and another fourth round pick, so Jackson has been placed in a situation from which he can learn. The effect appears to be a reciprocal one, as Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darqueze Dennard and Josh Shaw welcome Jackson to the group, but are also feeling the pressure to perform in 2016 and beyond.
Jones and Kirkpatrick recently took Jackson out to dinner after he landed in Cincinnati, and give him some of their wisdom. "I was just telling him all the things he needs to expect. Just keeping it real with him. Not being one of those guys that say certain things and that’s really not what it was," Kirkpatrick said via The Cincinnati Enquirer. I wanted him to know what it really was. I said it’s not my job to give you a position. It’s my job to teach you and for you to go out there and take it."
Jones, the grizzled veteran at the position, fresh off of his own big contract this offseason, likes the decision of bringing WJ3 on board. "I totally agree with the decision," Jones said. "We always need depth in the back end. I’m eager for the challenge for the group, man. My main thing with the guys is less talk, more actions. And everything will work out."
That challenge is permeating through the whole group beyond Jones as well. Kirkpatrick, whose future is less certain than Jones' after this season, noted his realization that the move is based on pro football being a series of business decisions. Kirkpatrick realizes he has work to do after a disappointing first season as a full-time starter, even though he was hampered by a shoulder injury most of the year. He also stated his preference of staying in Cincinnati after 2016, once his fifth-year option expires.
"At the end of the day, it can only be helpful," said Josh Shaw, last year's promising fourth round selection. "You have a lot of guys who are very, very talented and it's a competitive room. For me, I was able to get here and see the Leon Halls the Adam Jones, Dres and even Darqueze, and everybody has their different traits about them, that are really special so you kind of get to pick from seeing differing things in everybody’s game to help yourself. For me, last year, I was able to learn a lot."
Shaw will be soaking up more in year two, with his contributions mostly continuing on special teams, and the hope is Jackson will be the same type of sponge as a rookie. And, if his introductory press conference is any indication, Jackson sounds like he's willing to sit back and watch from the other veterans. "Every player needs a mentor and someone to look up to," Jackson said. "Being behind those guys and seeing how they get the job done and what technique they use can help me a lot. When I get my opportunity, I can go in and play just like they play for years."
Marvin Lewis loves first round defensive backs, and Jackson is the fifth corner taken in the head coach's 14-year regime. Fortunately for Jackson, as was the cases with Kirkpatrick and Dennard, he won't need to be immediately thrown in the fire like Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph. His arrival, while pushing the others, provides extreme depth in today's passing-driven NFL.