When the Washington Football Team lost Ronald Darby, Ron Rivera knew he had to find another starting corner. He also knew that he was really intrigued by the top option on the market: William Jackson III.
However, Rivera didn't think the franchise would have a chance at acquiring Jackson due to how enticing of a player he was. In the coach's mind, many others would be chasing the ex-Bengal and, therefore, the price for his services would increase a serious amount.
Yet, to Rivera and Senior Director of Player Personnel Eric Stokes' surprise, the bidding didn't take off as expected.
"We decided to dive in," Rivera said on Thursday, in a press conference meant to look back on free agency.
And when Washington surfaced, they surfaced with a brand new defender that Rivera is truly enamored with.
"A lot of it has to do with his ability to take over a side and shut a side down," Rivera told reporters about Jackson. "It’s going to add to the things that we are currently doing... He, I think, is really a tremendous corner who really has the skillset to say: ‘Hey, we want to put him on your best guy. We want to put him over here and roll away from him.’ It gives us that kind of flexibility."
In Cincinnati, Jackson didn't receive much attention for numerous reasons, such as the Bengals' run of mediocre-to-poor defenses and the small market that the organization operates in. Rivera clearly noticed him, though, and should he succeed in limiting the game's top wideouts on a week-to-week basis, he'll soon get the attention he deserves.
Now, the one question that's followed Jackson's arrival is just how smoothly he'll fit into Rivera and Jack Del Rio's scheme.
Rivera has earned a reputation of being a quasi-cornerback whisperer — which Jackson even touched on as a factor in agreeing to a deal with the Burgundy and Gold — but in Cincy, Jackson most often excelled in man-to-man situations, while Washington deployed a lot of zone in 2020.
Fortunately, as Rivera explained it, he saw enough evidence from Jackson's film to come away confident that the 28-year-old will have a seamless transition in his new surroundings.
"It’s funny, because my first impression in watching him was that this is a pure man guy," Rivera said. "But as I watched more tape and saw that they did play zone and the way he played it, especially when he played with vision and got his eyes back on the quarterback but he’s looking through the receiver at the same time, he knows how to put himself in position."
The fact that Jackson will get to line up behind Chase Young, Montez Sweat and the rest of the defensive line's problem-causers should help him feel comfortable, too.
So, in all, Rivera got what he believes is a one-half-of-the-field eraser who can execute no matter what's asked of him and who'll be dropped into a unit that's far better than the one he last played on. No wonder the coach perked up so much on Thursday when talking about Jackson's future in Washington.
"This is a dynamic football player," he said. "We’re very, very happy to have him.”