The Cincinnati Bengals have suffered their first injury of 2016.
It comes in the form of rookie cornerback William Jackson III. According to multiple media reports, Jackson has suffered a torn pectoral muscle.
Bengals first-round CB William Jackson has a torn pec, per source.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) August 2, 2016
Bengals first rounder William Jackson suffered a torn pec, source said. Big blow.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) August 2, 2016
The 24th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Jackson was the first player the Bengals took in this year's draft. The former Houston Cougars cornerback was regarded as one of the two or three best cornerback prospects in this draft, not to mention a guy who could end up being the best corner out of this draft.
This past season, Jackson led the NCAA and set a school record for pass breakups with 23. He also added five interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. Jackson was the kind of long, athletic and physical defender who could become a complete NFL corner, something very hard to come by even in today's pass-happy NFL.
Though Jackson was Cincinnati's first pick, he was facing a tough battle just to earn playing time in a loaded Bengals secondary, so this isn't a major loss in terms of how much he was expected to contribute in 2016, but this is a damaging blow for his pro career. While no one expected him to be a starter, getting reps on special teams and watching from the bench as a rookie would be key to his long-term development. A gunner role on special teams was likely for Jackson.
According to NFL.com, Jackson could miss three to four months. Opposingly, ESPN is saying there's no timetable for his return. It's possible that Jackson could be the Bengals' choice for the IR/designated to return designation that the team can assign to one player.
Jackson reportedly suffered this injury during Monday's training camp session, which forced him to leave practice early, and now we're hearing why. Because he took part in practices, Jackson is no longer eligible for PUP, so he's almost certainly going to land on I.R.
The good news is the Bengals don't have to use their one IR/designated to return spot on Jackson right away. Earlier this year, the NFL announced a rule change that teams no longer have to designate the I.R. player ahead of time.
Teams are still only allowed to bring one player back via the designation, but they can bring back any one player they've placed on I.R. Prior to the rule change, if a team wanted to use the one I.R. return designation, they had to declare it when the player was placed on injured reserve. Now, the Bengals can wait and see if Jackson is getting healthy quickly, and then take him off I.R. later in the 2016 season.
#Bengals CB William Jackson, who tore his pec, is seeking a second opinion to see if he's out for the season or will be on IR/to return.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 2, 2016
But once they take Jackson or any player off of I.R., the rest of the I.R. players must remain on the list. It's still hard to see Jackson being able to come back this season, but at least that option can remain without the Bengals being forced to use their lone I.R. return designation on him before they know if he'll return.
This type of injury is usually of the season-ending variety, though a definitive diagnosis can't come until the extent of the tear is known. For comparison's sake, the Browns placed Desmond Brown on the season-ending Reserve/Non-Football Injury list due to a torn pec muscle earlier this summer.