There were times this summer, as he was trying to get used to new responsibilities with a new franchise, that William Jackson III felt like he was a rookie all over again.
The only problem with that was that Jackson III's contract with Washington — the one he signed in March that was for three years and worth up to $42 million — served as a reminder to him and everyone else that he wasn't a first-year pro. Instead, the organization was counting on the corner to be a star on the outside.
So, as Jackson III stumbled through the first half of the 2021 season with his new squad — he dealt with penalties, coverage breakdowns and a leg injury — he was constantly scrutinized. The fact that he was being asked to do something completely different than what he had done with the Bengals to begin his career was soon forgotten; patience doesn't last long for players making his salary.
Fortunately, Jackson III, much like almost every other aspect of Washington's team, has come back from the Week 9 bye in far better form. On Thursday, he explained why that's been the case.
"I just had to buckle down and really, really, really learn and take in what I had to do," Jackson III, who's handled way more zone duties than he did in Cincinnati, said. "I had to get out of that man mind frame, had to put myself in a different state and it's working well for me."
"He’s learning and getting a feel for playing with vision, not with your back to the quarterback," Ron Rivera offered on Wednesday. "I think he's adapted very nicely and we're starting to see it."
While identifying the specific parties in the secondary who are culpable on a given deep ball can be difficult, it definitely seemed like Jackson III was often involved in busts back in September and October, the days when opposing offenses had their way with Washington. Then there was his problem with flags; he was whistled for six infractions through his first eight contests with the Burgundy and Gold.
But the back end of the defense overall has really tightened up during Washington's last four victories, and Jackson III deserves credit for his role in that improvement, especially after he took so much blame for the early failures.
"He's got a tremendous combination of size, speed, foot quickness, body control," coordinator Jack Del Rio said Thursday. "He’s been continuing to work and learn how we do things and where he belongs. He's been much more consistent in terms of being where we need him."
Jackson III feels that uptick in consistency, too.
"I'm really enjoying it now, because I really know where I'm supposed to be, what I'm doing, what I'm looking at," he said.
As that comfort has increased, it's helped Jackson III think less. He admitted that he was putting "a lot of pressure" on himself to begin the campaign because, quite simply, he didn't want to "mess up." Ironically, that actually caused Jackson III to err on the regular.
With each passing game, Jackson III's issues are drifting further and further into the past. He's more confident, which is sparking the defense, which is sparking the whole team, which is leading to victories.
"Now that we're winning, everything's feeling good," Jackson III said.
For someone who was recently very lost, he sounded awfully sure of himself there.