With the summer in full swing and NFL training camps less than two months away now, we gathered our Cincy Jungle staff to rank the top 25 Bengals of the 2020 season.
This ranking is simply who we believe are the 25 best Bengals heading into next season. It includes veterans and rookies alike, though it obviously is more favorable of players who’ve actually played snaps in the NFL, so don’t expect guys like Joe Burrow to be a top-five player right off the bat.
For a recap of the list, check out our stream here.
The Bengals made some massive changes defensively this offseason, and for good reason. Most of that change took place in the secondary, because why not? Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo was a long-time defensive backs coach, and the team hired a new cornerbacks coach in Steve Jackson.
At that position, Dre Kirkpatrick was replaced with Trae Waynes and nickel corner Darqueze Dennard with Mackensie Alexander. LeShaun Sims can also be considered a replacement for Tony McRae.
This group had many miscues last year, which led to big plays for opposing offenses, but one player competed at a consistently high level throughout the season.
No. 11: William Jackson III, cornerback
Defense is pressure. If one player doesn’t get in their gap; it’s potentially a touchdown. If one player makes a mental or physical error in coverage; it’s a touchdown.
The defense as a whole was bad last year, but William Jackson III actually played very well, particularly in man coverage. Touchdown Wire’s Doug Farrar ranks Jackson as the ninth-best man coverage cornerback in the league. Yes, Jackson played well, it just didn’t matter because of the other problems the defense had.
Remember that in Jackson’s first season he shut down Antonio Brown; allowing zero receptions on eight targets in two matchups with the Steelers that season. Jackson is still the same player that he was then, but the defensive miscues make it hard to see.
In Year two of Anarumo’s defense, communication and understanding of the defensive scheme will be improved. This will lead to improved performance from returning players like Jessie Bates III and Shawn Williams as well as Jackson. This combined with the aforementioned upgrades in the secondary and improvements at linebacker will lead to massive improvement in pass defense in 2020.
As a result, Jackson will have a breakout year and finally get the national recognition he deserves as one of the league’s elite cornerbacks. If that happens and he returns to Cincinnati in 2021, you can definitely expect him to be higher on next year’s version of our rankings.