William Jackson III

Bengals Pick Up William Jackson’s Option

The Bengals have exercised their fifth-year option on cornerback William Jackson, according to a team announcement. The additional year keeps him under control through 2020, though it is guaranteed for injury only. 

Chosen with the No. 24 overall pick in 2016, Jackson missed his entire rookie year due to injury. In his re-do year, he mostly served as a backup. However, he started in all 16 of the Bengals’ games last year and tallied 41 tackles. For his work, Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 26th best cornerback in the entire NFL, despite the fact that he did not record a single interception.

Jackson is just the latest 2016 first-round pick to have his fifth-year option exercised. To keep track of every decision, check out PFR’s running list, which will be updated between now and the May 3 deadline.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bengals Pick RB Cedric Peerman For Return

The Bengals announced that they have designated running back Cedric Peerman to return. Teams only get one IR-DTR move per season, so today’s news means that we will not see rookie cornerback William Jackson III take the field this season. Cedric Peerman (Vertical)

So far this year, the Bengals’ secondary has been lackluster, leading some to believe that Jackson would get the nod. However, the team is also hurting in the third facet of the game. Peerman is a special teams stalwart for Cincinnati and the Bengals decided that they would benefit more from having him on the field than the young Houston product.

When Rams quarterback Jared Goff made his debut earlier this month, Jackson was the only 2016 first-round pick who was still waiting to take the field. Now, he has solidified the unfortunate distinction. Jackson will turn his focus to 2017 when he hopes to propel the Bengals’ defense with his exceptional speed.

At 3-6-1, the Bengals are not likely to make the playoffs, but they also haven’t been mathematically eliminated. After losing Giovani Bernard for the season and losing A.J. Green for multiple games, the Bengals are sending a message today that they are not giving up on 2016.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Bengals, Jackson III, Ravens

The Bengals haven’t yet made a decision on which player they will bring back from injured reserve, as Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com writes. Cincinnati has two options for IR/return — first-round cornerback William Jackson III and veteran running back Cedric Peerman — and both are “essentially healthy,” per Terrell, meaning the Bengals are simply biding their time before choosing between the two.

“Obviously the first-round pick is an asset, and you want to get him involved,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “We’ve had him all year since he’s been back from Houston and since the surgery, so to keep him invested in the football team.” The Bengals’ secondary has been below-average, meaning Jackson — who will the only 2016 first-rounder who hasn’t seen the field after Jared Goff starts for the Rams tomorrow — would be a welcome option. But Cincinnati’s sub-par special teams unit is missing its ace in Peerman, making the decision between the pair all the more difficult.

Here’s more on the Bengals and the rest of the AFC North:

  • Defensive tackle Brandon Thompson will return to practice next week, said Lewis, opening a three-week window during which the Bengals can choose to transfer Thompson from the PUP list to the active roster. Thompson suffered a torn ACL in the 2015 season finale after spending the year as a reserve, appearing in nine games and acting as a run-stuffer. If Cincinnati doesn’t opt to active Thompson in the next three weeks, he’ll either need to stay on PUP for the rest of season or be waived.
  • Because Crockett Gillmore is dealing with an injury, the Ravens have continually added a tight end to their practice squad in recent weeks to ensure that they have enough bodies for practice sessions, as Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun notes (all Twitter links). Quarterback David Fales has been the victim in such scenarios, having been repeatedly dropped from the taxi squad to create room for a tight end. That series of transactions will likely end next week, per Zrebiec, as TE Nick Boyle will be eligible to return from a 10-game PED suspension.
  • The Steelers made a number of moves earlier today, placing wide receiver Markus Wheaton and defensive end Cameron Heyward on injured reserve while activating edge rusher Bud Dupree from IR and promoting running back Daryl Richardson from the practice squad.
  • Yesterday, Browns head coach Hue Jackson said it would be a “coup” if Cleveland could retain recently-acquired linebacker Jamie Collins, and also indicated that quarterback Robert Griffin III would begin practicing next week.

Extra Points: Cowboys, Bengals, Rams, Lions

After defensive end Randy Gregory‘s latest slip-up, Babe Laufenberg of The Dallas Morning News hopes that the Cowboys and Jason Garrett realize the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. In the wake of Gregory’s latest failed drug test, owner Jerry Jones has said that he will not give up on the former second-round pick. Still, Dallas probably would have been better off paying attention to Gregory’s red flags and passing on him in the draft, Laufenberg opines. Many fans have expressed similar sentiments after the Cowboys have dealt with Gregory, Greg Hardy, Rolando McClain, and other failed reclamation projects, but it is hard to argue with the club’s results on the field this season. Teams can often get ahead by taking risks and the 8-1 Cowboys seem to be doing fine despite some miscalculations.

More from around the NFL:

  • With Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff starting in Week 11, Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter) notes that Bengals cornerback William Jackson III will be the only 2016 first-rounder to not yet play this season. Jackson suffered a torn pectoral muscle over the summer and was placed on IR. It’s possible that the 24th overall pick could return this season, but his status is currently up in the air.
  • Case Keenum, whom Goff is replacing as the Rams’ No. 1 signal-caller, is predictably displeased that he lost his place atop the team’s depth chart. On receiving the news, Keenum said Wednesday, “Honestly, I wasn’t happy. I want to play. That’s why I play football, to be the quarterback and the guy with the ball in his hands” (via Zac Jackson of Pro Football Talk). However, Keenum isn’t going to cause any behind-the-scenes problems for LA. “With that being said I trust Coach (Jeff) Fisher,” he continued. “I trust these coaches and their decision. I’m a captain and I have to do my job. My job is whatever they tell me my job is.”
  • Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since Week 1, per Kyle Meinke of MLive.com. Levy, who has missed 23 of the Lions’ past 25 games, has been dealing with knee and quad injuries this year. While it’s possible the 2014 second-team All-Pro could take the field Sunday against Jacksonville, it’s likelier he’ll suit up on Thanksgiving versus NFC North rival Minnesota, writes Meinke.
  • Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro said he’s playing Thursday night in Carolina, as Josh Katzenstein of The Times-Picayune tweets. This likely means Vaccaro has appealed his four-game ban for Adderall. Players are typically able to suit up while the process plays out.

Sunday NFL Transactions: AFC North

Listed below are the Sunday roster moves for the four AFC North teams. Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline yesterday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters, claiming players off waivers or signing guys who clear waivers. Those transactions for the Ravens, Bengals, Browns, and Steelers are noted below.

Additionally, as of 12:00pm CT today, teams can begin constructing their 10-man practice squads. You can check out our glossary entry on practice squads to brush up on those changes, as well as all the other guidelines that govern the 10-man units, whose players practice with the team but aren’t eligible to suit up on Sundays.

Here are Sunday’s AFC North transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day. All links go to Twitter unless otherwise noted:

Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers

Bengals CB William Jackson Suffers Torn Pec

THURSDAY, 11:49am: Bengals coach Marvin Lewis says Jackson could return this season after having surgery to reattach his pec muscle, Albert Breer of The MMQB tweets.

TUESDAY, 12:15pm: Jackson is seeking a second opinion to find out whether he’ll be out for the season or just placed on IR-DTR with the possibility to return, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

11:45am: Bengals first rounder William Jackson III has suffered a torn pectoral muscle, a source tells Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter). At minimum, Jackson can be expected to miss a few months as a result of the injury.William Jackson III (vertical)

Jackson, a University of Houston product, turned heads with a 4.37 second 40-yard-dash time at the NFL combine. Jackson not only came with a great deal of promise, but the Bengals were banking on using him as a key cog in their cornerback rotation this year.

Over the last two years at UH, Jackson allowed just 40% of passes thrown his way to be completed. After watching him perform in college and excel at the combine, scouting guru Dave-Te Thomas was high on his potential and cited his aggressiveness as a positive:

Jackson was considered a “lockdown corner” for the Houston Cougars after he appeared in thirteen games and finished second in the American Athletic Conference with ten pass breakups in 2014. He also picked off two passes and tallied 37 tackles. Last season, the All-American led the nation and set a Houston single-season record with 23 pass deflections. He also led the nation in passes defended with 28, finishing 20th with five interceptions. He concluded his career ranked third on the UH career passes broken up chart with 40, despite only playing three seasons.

Some other “good news” numbers include Jackson recording six turnovers and coming up with 22 third-down stops…Jackson is certainly not going to impress you with being a great physical presence on the field, but he does demonstrate excellent speed and jump- ball timing. He is very consistent in being “getting into the face” of a receiver. He opens his hips well when asked to handle switch-offs on deep patterns and moves well in space, but he certainly lacks any sort of punch and physicality when required to deliver press coverage (recorded ten reps in the 225-pound bench press drill). His leaping ability helps him get to most balls though and he always seems to get his hands on the pigskin, even when he isn’t in great position.

As shown on their depth chart, the Bengals are currently slated to start Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones at the cornerback spots with Darqueze Dennard as the third corner. Without Jackson, 2015 fourth-round pick Josh Shaw could see an increased role in the coming year. The Bengals could also look to the open market for CB help.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Impact Rookies: Cincinnati Bengals

The old adage that defense wins championships may or may not be true, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a title-winning team that didn’t build heavily through the draft. Rookie classes, naturally, are evaluated on the perceived upside of the NFL newcomers, but which rookies are ready to contribute right out of the gate? And, how do they fit in with their new team schematically?

To help us forecast the immediate future of these NFL neophytes, we enlisted the help of draft guru Dave-Te Thomas who has served as a scouting personnel consultant to NFL teams for multiple decades.

Today, we continue PFR’s Impact Rookie series with his insight on the Cincinnati Bengals’ draft class:

The Bengals are soon to reap the benefits from another solid draft, as the first four selections in 2016 all appear to be of starting quality. Their cache from the 2015 draft saw all ten of those selections play for the team last year. They were so impressed with one of their late round finds, that the team let go several key pieces in their secondary to bring fresh legs into the fold. Now, all seven of their draft picks in 2016 have the same opportunity as the previous draft class to claim roster spots.

First Round – William Jackson III, CB (Houston, No. 24)

The Bengals let Leon Hall walk in order to keep Adam Jones, as the right cornerback signed a three-year deal that keeps him in the fold until 2019. The team will make a strong effort to keep Dre Kirkpatrick around as the left cornerback, but he is a free agent after the season and might be in line for a big deal if he can improve upon his 2015 performance. William Jackson III (vertical)

In 2015, the Bengals covered their potential loss of Andre Smith by drafting two tackles. This year, the Bengals tapped William Jackson III as insurance against Kirkpatrick’s possible departure. If Kirkpatrick goes, then Jackson and 2014 first-round pick Darqueze Dennard will be counted upon to lead the secondary in 2017 and beyond.

Jackson was considered a “lockdown corner” for the Houston Cougars after he appeared in thirteen games and finished second in the American Athletic Conference with ten pass breakups in 2014. He also picked off two passes and tallied 37 tackles. Last season, the All-American led the nation and set a Houston single-season record with 23 pass deflections. He also led the nation in passes defended with 28, finishing 20th with five interceptions. He concluded his career ranked third on the UH career passes broken up chart with 40, despite only playing three seasons.

Some other “good news” numbers include Jackson recording six turnovers and coming up with 22 third-down stops. On the “bad news” scale, while he defended so many passes, it could be due to quarterbacks constantly throwing into his area. The Cougar was targeted 93 times in 2016, allowing 41 receptions (44.09%) for 460 yards, an average of 11.22 yards per grab, with receivers totaling seven big plays (20 yards or longer) and twenty first downs vs. the defender, reaching the end zone three times. In run support, he made just five tackles.

Jackson is certainly not going to impress you with being a great physical presence on the field, but he does demonstrate excellent speed (4.37 in the 40-yard dash) and jump- ball timing. He is very consistent in being “getting into the face” of a receiver. He opens his hips well when asked to handle switch-offs on deep patterns and moves well in space, but he certainly lacks any sort of punch and physicality when required to deliver press coverage (recorded ten reps in the 225-pound bench press drill). His leaping ability helps him get to most balls though and he always seems to get his hands on the pigskin, even when he isn’t in great position.

Jackson fails to sink his hips low enough or explode into his hits when asked to wrap and tackle in run support. Still, as a pass defender, his timing is impeccable, evident by his nation-leading 28 passes defended that included five interceptions in 2015.

Read more about the Bengals’ 2016 rookie class..

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Bengals Sign William Jackson III

The Bengals announced that they have formally signed first-round pick William Jackson III. With the cornerback officially under contract, the Bengals have now signed every player in their 2016 draft class. William Jackson III (vertical)

Jackson, a University of Houston product, turned heads with a 4.37 second 40-yard-dash time at the NFL combine. Over the last two years at UH, Jackson allowed just 40% of passes thrown his way to be completed. The cornerback was reportedly at the center of what could have been a rare trade between the Jets and Giants on draft day. The Jets are said to have offered their No. 20 overall pick and second-rounders to the Giants to get the No. 10. The Jets had their sights set on Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil while the Giants would have targeted Jackson at No. 20. However, the Giants were zeroed in on Ohio State star Eli Apple and didn’t want to pass up the chance to draft him.

Here is a full recap of the Bengals’ 2016 draft class:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Bradford, Jets, Giants, Falcons, Lions

Given quarterback Sam Bradford‘s unhappiness in Philadelphia, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk examined the seemingly far-fetched possibility of the 28-year-old retiring – at least temporarily. Bradford would have to surrender the $11MM signing bonus he received from the Eagles earlier this offseason if he were to walk away, but he would offset that loss somewhat by avoiding any fines or forfeitures that would accompany a potential holdout.

The appeal of retiring from Bradford’s point of view is that he could wait for another team’s starting quarterback to suffer an injury, whether it be this year or in 2017, thus leading that club to approach the Eagles about a trade. It would be similar to the situation Carson Palmer found himself in five years ago as a disgruntled member of the Bengals. Early in the 2011 season, the Raiders lost starter Jason Campbell to an injury and then made a trade with the Bengals to bring Palmer out of his short-lived retirement.

Most teams’ starting quarterback situations are set right now, and the Eagles haven’t shown a willingness to move Bradford in the wake of trading up to No. 2 in the draft for Carson Wentz and signing Chase Daniel, so Florio opines that retirement could be his most sensible option.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • There was potential for a New York-New York trade in the first round of last week’s draft, according to the New York Daily News’ Gary Myers, who reports that the Jets offered their first- (20th overall) and second-rounders to the Giants for No. 10. The Jets had their sights set on Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, but the Giants didn’t want to move down and risk losing out on Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple. Had the Giants accepted the Jets’ offer, they would have either taken TCU wideout Josh Doctson or the best cornerback available (likely Houston’s William Jackson III) at No. 20, per Myers. Doctson ultimately went 22nd to Washington and Jackson landed with the Bengals two picks later. Meanwhile, instead of nabbing Tunsil, the Jets kept their top two picks and used them on Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee and Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
  • The Falcons are currently mulling whether to sign free agent cornerback Leon Hall, who visited them this week, reports Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. Hall would add depth to a Falcons defensive backfield in need of it, especially given the four-game suspension the league handed Jalen Collins, as McClure writes. The ex-Michigan standout’s entire NFL career has thus far been spent in Cincinnati, where he totaled 26 interceptions from 2007-15, though it doesn’t appear he’ll return to the Bengals. Aside from the Falcons, Hall has also visited the Giants, Cardinals and Cowboys this offseason, but his age (31) and injury history (he has torn both Achilles) are seemingly working against him in landing a contract.
  • With the draft in the books, Kyle Meinke of MLive.com took a look at six Lions veterans whose jobs could now be in jeopardy. Meinke points to quarterback Dan Orlovsky, center Travis Swanson, offensive tackle Cornelius Lucas, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, defensive tackle Gabe Wright and long snapper Don Muhlbach as players who aren’t locks to remain in the Motor City.

Schrager’s Latest: Joseph, Kelly, Giants

Earlier tonight, Peter Schrager of FOX Sports took to Twitter to pass along his latest draft buzz. Here’s a rundown of everything: