Shortly after the Cincinnati Bengals had drafted William Jackson III on Thursday, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle were raving about the cornerback’s smarts as much as his skills.
What they might find surprising is that Jackson only fully committed to the mental part of the game a few months ago after relying mostly on his athleticism early in his college career.
“This year I took it very seriously,” Jackson said Friday in a press conference at Paul Brown Stadium. “I started to make plays for my teammates. They were happy for me, so I kept watching films, making plays, and winning games.”
The 6-foot, 189-pound Jackson said things changed when his position coach Jason Washington showed him there was more to film study than just watching plays.
“My coach taught me how to watch film, like what to look for in receiver stances, the width, and numbers,” Jackson said. “Once I learned that part of the game, it came much slower to me.”
The learning process is just beginning for Jackson, and fortunately for him he has some quality instructors waiting to work with him, both on the coaching staff and the roster with fellow first-round corners Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard.
Jackson becomes the third first-round cornerback the Bengals have selected in the last five years and fifth in the previous 11 (Dennard 2014, Kirkpatrick 2012, Leon Hall 2007, Jonathan Joseph 2006). The secondary also has featured first-rounders obtained via trade and free agency, with Terence Newman and Reggie Nelson joining Jones in that group.
“They’ve all understood you collectively get better by pushing each other to be better, by holding each other to a higher standard,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “It makes everyone better. They’ve been competitive in their drill work and practice. They’ve raised each others’ levels of learning how to study the game, opponent and plan. That has raised the level in the room.
“To me, its a great opportunity for Will to come into, and understand how NFL players go about their day and week,” Lewis said. “It not only becomes the physical part of the game, but the intellectual part of the game as well. That’s where our guys have really matured and taken a huge step in. Some of those guys are no longer here, but they blazed the trail.”