There was a lot to be upset about for Bengals fans after their team fell 29-14 to the Steelers on Sunday. One player managed to shine during the struggle, as William Jackson may have had his best game of the season so far.
The Steelers tried to pick on Jackson in the second half with Antonio Brown, but the second-year player wasn’t going to be taken advantage of. Jackson was targeted four times while covering Brown, but he didn’t give up a single reception to the pro bowl wide receiver.
In fact, he had three pass breakups on those four throws his way, according to Pro Football Focus. Two of his pass breakups were textbook as well. He managed to bat the ball down right in front of Brown’s hands without making contact with the receiver to draw a flag. One of those came in the end zone as well, which obviously was a huge play to keep the Bengals’ hopes alive a little bit longer.
"It was fun," Jackson said after the game in regards to playing against Brown. "It was actually fun; he is a great guy. He is a great competitor, and I wanted to show him that I could compete with the best of them like I did.
Brown finished the game with four catches for 65 yards and a touchdown. He was also targeted on a deep ball where Dre Kirkpatrick was beaten so bad that he was forced to dive out and grab Brown. This resulted in a defensive pass interference penalty that led to a field goal for the Steelers.
It is telling that Jackson was better in coverage against Brown than Kirkpatrick, as far as the future of this secondary is concerned. The Bengals were without Adam Jones who has a history of shutting Brown down, but Jackson was able to do him proud this week.
Jackson, of course, missed all of his rookie season with an injury, but he has announced his presence this season. He saw a few defensive snaps against the Packers, and he made the most of it by returning an interception for a touchdown. Pro Football Focus also says he is only allowing 44.0 percentage of passes thrown his way to be caught. He has an overall 81.0 Pro Football Focus player grade which ranks him 31st among all corners.
Considering this is his first year really playing in the NFL that is pretty good, and it shows why the Bengals drafted him despite having plenty of depth at the position. After this game, it is hard to see the Bengals going back to Jones, but this team hasn’t had a great track record recently of making smart decisions on who should play.
Jackson is still learning, and we should expect some hiccups this season, but the more he plays, the better he should be going forward. He and Darqueze Dennard have played pretty well as of late, so the future is looking pretty bright for the Bengals’ secondary going forward.
"I did OK," Jackson said after the game. "There is always room to get better, but we can go back to it and watch the film and see what I can do better. I made some good plays out there."