Cincinnati Bengals rookie cornerback William Jackson III was preparing to make a big impact for the Bengals this season after they selected him with the 24th pick in this year’s draft. And up until a week ago, it looked like he was set to do just that.
Unfortunately for Jackson though, he suffered a torn pectoral muscle on the Bengals first full contact practice of training camp. A few days later head coach Marvin Lewis confirmed that he would undergo surgery for the injury and would miss three to four months.
Now obviously the injury is a big blow to Jackson. He’s hopeful that a return during the 2016 season is possible, but at this point the Bengals are not counting on it. And they’ll know have to move to plan-B in the secondary.
Which opens the door for Darqueze Dennard.
Dennard’s professional career so far has been a pretty big disappointment. After winning the Jim Thorpe Award for the best defensive back in college, it seemed like the Bengals were getting a sure thing when they drafted him No. 24 overall in the 2014 draft.
But Dennard has been anything but a sure thing.
In his two seasons with the Bengals, he has recorded just one interception and 37 tackles in very limited action. Making matters worse though, he has failed to gain the trust of the Bengals coaching staff, which has caused them to look for alternatives in the secondary.
The selection of Jackson was just that. They didn’t have enough trust in Dennard’s ability to become an impact player in their secondary so they drafted an alternative plan. Had Dennard shown enough potential during his first two seasons, the Bengals would have never even thought about drafting another cornerback so highly.
But with Jackson’s injury, the Bengals are back to square one and Dennard will now get another chance at the job.
Ultimately Dennard will have to prove that he can stay healthy long enough to contribute for the long haul.
As a rookie, Dennard struggled through hip and hamstring injuries that bothered him all season and restricted him to just 41 snaps for the year. Then during his second training camp, he suffered a groin injury that derailed any chance he had at becoming a significant piece of the Bengals’ defense.
Once again though injuries have been an issue for Dennard during this year’s training camp. Shortly after the injury to Jackson, Dennard sprained his ankle and will once again miss time during training camp.
Unlike the past injuries though, Dennard’s recovery should be fairly quick and most importantly, the Bengals have no other options at cornerback at this point. So the opportunity will still be there when he finally gets healthy.
And make no doubt about it; this is a huge opportunity for Dennard. As I wrote in the past, this season was already a huge opportunity for the young cornerback because the Bengals have been reluctant to bring back their longtime starting cornerback Leon Hall. So there was already going to be an open spot before the Jackson injury.
But now the Bengals desperately need Dennard, which makes 2016 his best chance at ever cracking Cincinnati’s starting unit. With so many uncertainties in the Bengals’ secondary, the door for Dennard is now wide open.