Lions Urged to Target Former 1st-Round Cornerback

William Jackson III

Getty The Bleacher Report NFL staff argued that the Detroit Lions should consider adding free agent cornerback William Jackson III.

The Detroit Lions’ defense has posted better statistics against the pass this season. But there are still questions about whether the improvement is enough for the Lions to make a deep playoff run.

The Bleacher Report NFL staff argued that to shore up the defensive weakness, the Lions should sign free agent cornerback William Jackson III.

“Cornerback has been a sore spot for the Lions just about all season, and they struggled to defend the Packers’ passing game on Thanksgiving,” the Bleacher Report NFL staff wrote. “Jackson III could at least give them another option for the playoffs if push comes to shove.”

The Cincinnati Bengals drafted Jackson at No. 24 overall in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft. The 31-year-old posted 16 combined tackles, including 1 tackle for loss and 2 pass defenses in four games for the Washington Commanders last season.


What William Jackson III Would Bring to the Lions

Jackson didn’t live up to his first-round billing. He spent four seasons with the Bengals on his rookie contract. But Cincinnati didn’t even elect to keep the cornerback on his fifth-year option.

In four seasons with the Bengals, Jackson recorded 150 combined tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 41 pass defenses and 3 interceptions.

Despite not living up to his first-round draft status, Washington offered him a three-year, $40.5 million contract in 2021. He posted 39 combined tackles, 8 pass defenses and 2 interceptions during 2021.

About halfway through that deal, though, the Commanders traded Jackson and a conditional 2025 seventh-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a conditional 2025 sixth-round choice.

But Jackson never played for the Steelers. Pittsburgh placed him on injured reserve with a back injury on November 12 and then released him in the offseason, which voided the trade.

Assuming he is healthy, Jackson’s best asset to a team such as the Lions is experience. He’s played 75 NFL games, which includes 64 starts.

The Lions are ranked 20th in passing yards allowed and 27th in passing touchdowns yielded. They have allowed more than 265 passing yards and at least 3 passing touchdowns in two of the past three games.

Jackson could provide depth, but whether he’s an upgrade for the Lions to improve in pass defense is debatable.


Lions Facing Bigger Defensive Need?

The secondary has the worst stats on Detroit’s defense, but they may not be the weakest link on the unit.

The Lions have featured a very inconsistent pass rush this season. They have recorded 5 or more sacks three times, but in each of their other eight games, the Lions have had 2 sacks or fewer.

In four contests this season, Detroit hasn’t had any sacks.

The Lions are 26th in sacks with 23. They are ranked better in pressures, hurries and quarterback knockdowns, but that pressure isn’t translating to a lot of negative plays.

If the Lions add a defensive veteran, then it might make more sense to add a pass rusher. Within the past week, Detroit has been linked to free agent edge rusher Leonard Floyd and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks.

The Lions could also turn to veteran defensive end Bruce Irvin. Detroit signed Irvin to its practice squad on November 16, but he has yet to play in a game.

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