Have you ever spent all spring preparing your garden, growing heirloom plants from seeds in your greenhouse and transporting the seedlings to your garden after getting the soil’s pH just right?
You then lovingly hydrate your plants each and every day with the right amount of water, at the right time of day. And then, as your plants just start to bear the fruit (or vegetable) of your labors, have you been forced to watch helplessly as the neighbor’s dog trashed your entire garden, chasing a squirrel?
I assume you haven’t experienced this. Me neither – knock on wood. But I imagine this is how opposing quarterbacks feel when they throw the ball in William Jackson’s direction. All their game preparations with extra time in the film room and extra reps with the wide receivers after practice, essentially were destroyed by Jackson’s ability to prevent pass completions.
Based on traditional statistics, nothing really stands out about William Jackson’s 2017 season. He had 25 tackles (19 solo), one interception (returned 75 yards for a touchdown), one fumble recovery, and 13 passes defensed. But taking a look at the advanced metrics generated by Pro Football Focus, one will see that not only was Jackson good last year, but he was clearly one of the top cornerbacks in the entire NFL.
Pro Football Focus recently highlighted the top five cornerbacks in each of their seven signature cornerback statistics, and Jackson finished either first or second in three of the seven categories.
Three of the signature statistics are related to the running game (run-stop percentage, and combined tackling efficiency) and pass rushing (pass rush productivity). Jackson did not finish in the top five in any of these three categories. This really shouldn’t surprise anybody, as Jackson isn’t exactly Carl Lawson when it comes to pass rushing, nor is he Vontaze Burfict when it comes to stopping the run – but the Bengals don’t need him to be.
A fourth signature statistic is cover snaps per target, which essentially rates how rarely a quarterback is willing to throw the ball in your direction. As a second-year player who spent his entire rookie season on Injured/Reserve, it’s not too much of a shock that Jackson wasn’t viewed as a cornerback to by avoided in passing plays. But that will likely change in the 2018 season, based on how well Jackson performed in 2017.
The final three signature statistics measure how well a cornerback did in coverage, and it is in these areas where Jackson was absolutely elite.
Yards allowed per cover snap: 0.38
Jackson ranked first in the entire NFL in this category. And from Week 12 until the end of the season, he allowed an absurd 0.04 yards per cover snap. To put that league-leading 0.38 yards per cover snap in perspective, if Jackson covers a wide receiver on all 35 passing plays in a typical game, he will surrender less than 15 yards in that game. To put that 0.04 number in perspective, he would allow less than two yards in that same game.
Passer rating allowed: 36.1
Jackson finished second in the entire NFL in passer rating allowed, with an absurdly low 36.1 rating. To put that 36.1 rating in perspective, consider that Johnny Manziel managed to score a 74.4 passer rating in the NFL. That means any time a quarterback is throwing at William Jackson, Jackson is limiting that quarterback to a level that is less than half as good as Manziel – yikes!
Cover snaps per reception: 26.1
In PFF’s final signature statistic for cornerbacks, Jackson again finished first in the entire NFL. On plays when he covered a receiver, Jackson only allowed one reception per every 26.4 of them. When you are a receiver and you see William Jackson covering you, it’s going to take more than 26 offensive passing plays for you to manage a single reception. That’s going to limit your production, and frustrate whoever started you in their fantasy football league.
Among all cornerbacks in the NFL, Jackson finished 8th per PFF’s rankings with an 89.2 grade, placing him in their “high quality” range, just shy of the top range of “elite”. That’s very good for a first year starter who was passed over by the Bengals on their IR-return designation in his rookie season for special teams player Cedric Peerman. Although when looking at PFF’s pass-preventing measurements, Jackson jumps from high quality, to the best of the best in the NFL.
The sky is the limit for the Bengals’ cornerback if he can keep playing at this level.