It was a moment I don’t think many Bengals fans will forget. When Bengals’ cornerback William Jackson introduced himself to everybody by intercepting Aaron Rodgers and returning it for a touchdown in a blink of an eye.
That was in 2017. Jackson didn’t initially start that season for Cincinnati since Adam Jones was still around, but it quickly became clear it would be hard to keep Jackson off the field. An injury midway through the season to Jones opened up the full-time starting position to Jackson, and he played at a level Bengals fans haven’t seen probably since Johnathan Joseph.
The offseason before the 2018 season really shook things up for the Bengals defense. Former-defensive coordinator Paul Guenther left for Oakland, leaving the job to be filled by Teryl Austin. It turned out not to be the greatest fit for Jackson, and having to learn Austin’s system seemed to be more of a challenge than Jackson may have initially thought. That is something he is prepared to keep from happening again this season with Lou Anarumo at the helm.
“From a mental standpoint, everything (last year) was different. Different scheme. Different this. And playing things differently,” Jackson told Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. “It was a learning curve for me. In the back end of the season, that’s when I kind of picked it up and started getting back to myself … I won’t allow myself (to have a learning curve).”
Obviously, Austin’s system had its flaws last season since he didn’t even make it the entire year before he was fired and Marvin Lewis took over that side of the ball. It seemed like a learning experience for Jackson though. This is only going to be his second year that he is going in as a starting cornerback, so he is still learning how seriously he needs to take things like studying the scheme.
It also helps that Anarumo’s scheme seems to be more straight forward than Austin’s was.
“There’s no gray area right now,” Jackson said. “It’s very down to the point. I’m excited.”
Hobson also noted that he has been asking players like Nick Vigil about plays and other specifics of the new scheme. It is obvious to plenty of people how seriously he is trying to avoid another slow start. His position coach, Daronte Jones, can’t help but notice how mature Jackson has become even though he is just entering his prime.
“It’s not like he’s a fourth-year player that has been in same system that you can see flourishing,” Jones said. “He’s been going at it. He’s been serious about his work. There’s a lot of learning … (Realizing it) that’s where maturity comes from. He’s definitely grown in that way.”
The Bengals can’t help but be happy with the way Jackson is conducting himself off the field as well. After all, they did pick up his fifth-year option on his contract this year. It also likely means that next offseason an extension should be in the works for their young star as well.
Looking back you can see that Jackson had all the signs of a player with great intangibles. For example, did you know that Jackson broke his finger against the Falcons or hyperextended his knee against the Dolphins? No? Well neither did anyone else because Jackson played through those injuries to make sure he started all 16 games. His reasoning for not blaming his struggles on injury?
“I didn’t really bring that up,” Jackson says. “People don’t care about that … It’s football. My job is not to complain about the injuries I have.”
The Bengals have a good one who just keeps getting better.