People have been raving about William Jackson following him shutting down Antonio Brown on Sunday.
It is probably because he was one of the few bright spots from what was otherwise a very frustrating game for Cincinnati Bengals’ fans. Maybe it was because Pro Football Focus said on four targets that Jackson didn’t allow a reception to Brown, and he also broke up the pass on three of the four targets.
His performance has garnered a comparison from the Bengals secondary coach Kevin Coyle to a former Bengals’ Pro Bowl corner:
“He’s a little leaner than Johnathan [Joseph]. They’re a little bit different, but their similarities are they both have great straight-line speed,” says Coyle, who enthusiastically reinforced what the scouts saw a decade apart on each pick. “From a pure coverage standpoint and running with receivers, that upper level acceleration, the ability to recover and get back in position is similar to some of the guys we’ve had here.”
Joseph was one of the best corners the Bengals have had during the Marvin Lewis area. The team eventually let him walk in free agency to Houston, where he is still playing at a high level.
Jackson announced his presence to the NFL in Week 3 when he picked off Aaron Rodgers and returned it for a touchdown. It was his first interception after missing his entire rookie season with an injury, and last week he made his presence felt again. He showed no fear covering Brown when the Steelers decided to test him. He managed to stay with him and make textbook moves on the ball to prevent a catch.
Prior to the game, according to the Bengals website, George Iloka joked during film study that Jackson wouldn’t need help against the Steelers speedy receivers, and it turns out that ended up being true.
Hopefully it stays true this week as T.Y. Hilton will be coming to town. Hilton is easily one of the fastest receivers in the NFL, so there is no doubt that Jackson will have his speed tested a couple times on Sunday. Hilton is averaging 19 yards per reception this year.
Don’t expect Jackson to shy away from that competition though. It is one of the things he loves most about this game.
“They tried to throw a fade on me,” Jackson says. “I knew they were going to try me. I just love that they were throwing the ball my way so I could compete.”
Of course the elephant in the room is whether or not Jackson will even get the opportunity. Adam Jones is practicing for his second straight day this week, which is a positive sign that he may be ready to play this week. Jackson is prepared for the coaches to start Jones over him.
“[Jones is] back this week,” Jackson says. “He might end up starting. I’ll just be ready when my number is called.”
That is a great attitude to have, but I have a hard time seeing Bengals’ fans not being outraged by that. Jones has been terrific as a Bengal, so I get it, but at what point do you start playing the guy you drafted in the first round? If the Bengals handle Jackson nearly as bad as they handled Darqueze Dennard than it’d be a disservice to this team and Jackson.
If Jackson does get the start and plays well against the Colts’ receiver, than we may not see him on the bench ever again.