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William Jackson III should shadow top receivers in 2018

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CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 11: Darqueze Dennard #21 and William Jackson III #22 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrate in the first quarter of a preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Paul Brown Stadium on August 11, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 11: Darqueze Dennard #21 and William Jackson III #22 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrate in the first quarter of a preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Paul Brown Stadium on August 11, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Cincinnati Bengals cornerback William Jackson III missed his first season due to injury but became the number one cornerback for them in 2017.

After another disappointing season for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017 there are things that are lost in all of the bad that happened. One of those is cornerback William Jackson III. Even though Bengals fans were aware of his great play in 2017, Jackson went unnoticed when it came to the national view of top cornerbacks last season.

Everyone in the national media praised cornerbacks like Jacksonville’s A.J. Bouye and New Orleans Marshon Lattimore and with good reason. Lost in those names of players who had great seasons was Jackson who ranked right between those two players in terms of passer rating when targeted according to Pro Football Focus who published an article on “Top 10 NFL CBs by lowest passer rating when targeted”.

After missing his first season due to injury, Jackson came in and had a shutdown type year for the Bengals secondary. As the season went on his snaps increased, especially when cornerback Adam Jones was put on injured reserve. Quarterbacks learned quickly that it was in their best interest to stay away from Jackson as he proved to lock down his opponents.

The 2016 first round pick allowed only 34.9 percent of targets thrown his way be caught which not only lead the league in 2017 but it was the second highest score ever recorded by PFF. The most impressive part of this stat is that he did it while covering some of the best receivers in the league. When covering Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, zero out of eight targets to Brown in Jackson’s coverage were completed between the two matchups in 2017.

Outside of Jackson’s coverage, Brown hauled in 12 catches for 166 yards and 2 touchdowns between the two games against the Steelers. Brown wasn’t the only top receiver that Jackson lined up across from last season that he shut down. He also lined up across from wide receivers T.Y. Hilton, Davante Adams, and Marqise Lee. When matched up against these four receivers Jackson allowed a combined 2 receptions for 42 yards.

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In what was Jackson’s first year playing in the NFL, he ranked 7th among sophomore standouts in 2017. There’s no doubt that the Bengals should start Jackson as their number one corner going into the 2018 season and possibly have him shadow top receivers. Since signing cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick to his monster deal he has struggled to be that shutdown corner that the Bengals were hoping he would be against top receivers.

Regardless, between Jackson, Kirkpatrick, and cornerback Darqueze Dennard the Bengals are pretty set at the cornerback position. Moving on from Adam Jones was easy with the emergence of both Jackson and Dennard. Cincinnati picked up Dennard’s fifth-year option keeping him with the Bengals through 2018. Between Dennard and Kirkpatrick’s contracts, there was no room to pay a third top cornerback salary with Jones.

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Jackson remains the top value still being on his rookie deal and likely the best cornerback they have if he continues what he started in 2017. Being able to release Jones due to the upcoming of Jackson allowing the team to spend that money elsewhere is huge.

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