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Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson backs up big talk with bigger plays
Rookie has team-high three interceptions
Published Sunday, September 23, 2018 6:15 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Carolina Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson has three interceptions over his first three NFL games, a first for the franchise. Jackson snared a pair of interceptions in the Panthers' 31-21 win against Cincinnati on Sunday.

Donte Jackson will surprise you.

The Carolina Panthers’ second-round pick in this year’s draft, a cornerback from Louisiana State, has proven quiet in study and talkative on the field. His goal is to become a “household name” as a rookie, and he is on his way. He has three of Carolina’s five interceptions for the season, becoming the first player in team history to produce at least two picks in his first three games. Jackson provided two of Carolina’s (2-1) four interceptions in their 31-21 win against Cincinnati (2-1) Sunday.

“Nobody likes to look like a liar, or look like a guy who don’t do what they got to do,” Jackson said. “When you’re talking, the biggest job for a talker is to back it up. I’ve just got to keep doing that. It’s a long season.”

Said quarterback Cam Newton: “We embrace egos, especially if it’s controlled. [Jackson] has come in and really surprised me, just off the mere fact of his learning ability. On the field, he’s a different player. When we’re going through meetings, he’s very quiet. He’s been asking questions, doing his job, and making great opportunities when they are there to be made.”

Carolina knew they were getting speed with Jackson, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds at the NFL Combine. Jackson, who also ran sprints at LSU, is making a name for himself in a secondary that has been rebuilding since the departure of All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman in 2016. When the Panthers went to the Super Bowl in 2015, Carolina produced 24 interceptions, 16 the following season, and 10 in 2017. With five in their first three games, the Panthers are showing the potential to rebuild a crucial facet of what defined them during that Super Bowl run.

The defense, which proved porous in Carolina’s 31-24 loss to Atlanta last week, responded against Cincinnati, particularly through playmakers like Jackson, who offered the remedy they needed.

“I’m really pleased with what [defensive coordinator] Eric Washington and the staff came up with,” coach Ron Rivera said. “We gave up a couple of chunk passes that we have to go back and look at and get those things corrected. I thought the pass rush really came up big.”

Said Jackson: “We’re just getting that swagger back. We’re not trying to be the best secondary in the league in week three. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We’re playing good ball right now, and we’re just focusing on keep playing the way we’re playing.”

Said cornerback James Bradberry, who plays opposite Jackson: “We’re a good duo together. He’s been taking my game to another level, and he doesn’t even know it, because I try to play up to his level. With three interceptions in three games, that’s pretty good.”

Jackson’s inspiration extends beyond the field. He celebrated the birth of his daughter, Demi Dalia Jackson, on Father’s Day. Not only is he playing to make a mark on his rookie season, he plays for her.

“It’s huge motivation,” Jackson said. “Going home, and seeing my daughter every day, just knowing that I can’t fail for her, and I’ve got to go out there and play ball every single day.”

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