Cincinnati Bengals cornerback William Jackson III had a tremendous 2017 season and looks to build on it in the new defense brought by Teryl Austin.
The Cincinnati Bengals have a dynamic group of cornerbacks walking into the 2018 season. With William Jackson III and Darqueze Dennard having breakout seasons last year and Dre Kirkpatrick coming into the season healthy and ready to go, it could be an electric season for the secondary. There’s also the new addition of second-round pick safety Jessie Bates to add to the safety group. New defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has plenty to work with on the back half of the defense going into the season.
It’s not hard to imagine the Bengals having a top secondary in 2018 as they ranked 8th in passing yards allowed per game just last season with 211.2. Austin is coming into a team with star talent at each level of the defense and has the ability to surpass the production of last season. The biggest turnaround that Austin wants to bring to the Bengals defense is forcing turnovers.
Cincinnati only tallied 14 forced turnovers in 2017 (11 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries). Both of those numbers should increase if Austin’s plan for the defense is successful. Being more aggressive getting after the quarterback will only help the secondary and while it will leave cornerbacks in one on one matchups with little help, the Bengals have the talent to handle it.
William Jackson III played his first season for the Bengals last season after sitting on Injured Reserve his entire rookie season. Jackson showed the abilities to be one of the NFL’s top lockdown corners in 2017 and looks to improve that this year. Playing on only 61 percent of the Bengals defensive snaps last season, Jackson was able to finish with 13 pass breakups and one interception. Given Austin’s new defensive schemes, it should prevent penalties by Jackson who had eight in 2017 for being too handsy.
Dennard was highly underrated as he had his breakout season from the slot and will be playing for a longterm contract in 2018. Hauling in two interceptions and six pass deflections while playing on 78 percent of the defensive snaps, he will also look to have a better year and more playing time in 2018. Dennard also tied for team lead in total tackles with 85.
Cincinnati tied for 14th with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017 in pass deflections with 73. I expect for the defense to rank in the top ten this season with Jackson in his second year of playing time and Kirkpatrick getting healthy and back to his 2016 production. The interception total is what should make a big turnaround this year with more three-safety sets and more consistent pressure on quarterbacks allowing for more opportunities. Cincinnati has the playmakers and now should have the opportunities for those playmakers to make plays.