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Bengals' top 2 picks were locked on each other in bowl game

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

By JOE KAY

AP Sports Writer

CINCINNATI (AP) Tyler Boyd knows all about the cornerback who will be guarding him during the Cincinnati Bengals' rookie minicamp this weekend. He saw what William Jackson III can do firsthand.

The Bengals' top two picks have already shared a big moment together. They were on opposite sides for one of the biggest comebacks in bowl history. Jackson was Houston's top cornerback and Boyd was Pitt's best receiver in the Armed Forces Bowl following the 2014 season.

Boyd had a big game, but Houston rallied from a 34-13 deficit with 6:14 left to a 35-34 win, the largest comeback in a bowl game that didn't go to overtime.

Forget it? Hardly.

"We had some nice battles," Boyd said Friday.

The two have lockers across the room from each other for the three-day minicamp, where they got to meet again. Jackson was the Bengals' first-round pick a week ago, with Boyd going to the Bengals in the second round. Both appreciate how unusual it is for players who were matched up in a bowl game to end up together on the same NFL team as rookies.

Both know a little bit about what to expect, too.

"That's real different, but I'm ready for the task," Jackson said. "He's a great player. He caught lot of balls in that game. Now he's a teammate and the sky's the limit."

Boyd was the Panthers' do-it-all receiver, and he had a game-high nine catches for 112 yards, helping them get that big lead. The game was played in the rain, so Houston played softer coverages to prevent a big play. Jackson wound up guarding Boyd only a few times in man-to-man coverage.

"There wasn't a lot of man coverage because it was wet and slick," Boyd said. "They played off us a little bit. I didn't get matched up with him as often as people thought we would have."

They'll get more closely acquainted during practices at Paul Brown Stadium with the rest of the rookies. Jackson has a chance to win a role on special teams while he learns to play cornerback in the NFL. The Bengals have starting cornerbacks Adam "Pacman" Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick back, along with No. 3 cornerback Darqueze Dennard.

By contrast, the Bengals are hoping Boyd can move into a significant role right away. They lost two of their top three receivers, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, during free agency. Boyd reminds the Bengals of Sanu with his versatility.

Sanu ran wildcat formations and threw the ball with the Bengals. Boyd lined up in the backfield and ran the ball at Pitt, and he threw it on occasion, too. He'd welcome the chance to do those things in the NFL.

"I believe I can handle that role pretty well," he said. "I've been doing it since high school."

He got a preview during a walkthrough Friday morning. The Bengals had him carry the ball on a reverse similar to one Pitt used. The main difference is that Pitt's version allowed for the receiver throw it.

"We tagged it in college with a pass," Boyd said. "It was a very successful play. I think they might tag that on here as well."

Notes: CB Darius Hillary is one of 13 undrafted free agents signed by the Bengals. His father, Ira, was a receiver with the Bengals from 1987-89, catching 27 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a 17-yard catch during the Bengals' Super Bowl loss to San Francisco in the 1988 season. Darius attended high school in Cincinnati and went to Wisconsin. "I've been around this team since I was little," he said. "Just to have the chance to put on a jersey with my name on the back is pretty cool."

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Updated May 6, 2016

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