Carolina Panthers get more bad injury news with another starter out for the season

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  • Donte Jackson
    Donte Jackson

The Carolina Panthers have placed cornerback Donte Jackson on injured reserve, ending his 2021 season.

Jackson suffered a groin injury late in the Panthers’ 33-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins. He had an MRI on Monday afternoon, which revealed the severity of the injury.

It hasn’t been determined yet whether Jackson will need surgery, according to a league source.

The Panthers have five games left this season. News of Jackson’s injury comes a day after the Panthers put star running back Christian McCaffrey on IR.

Unrestricted free agent

Jackson may have played his final snap in a Panthers’ jersey; he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. Panthers coach Matt Rhule and general manager Scott Fitterer have said they would like to have him back, and he was voted a team captain this season by his peers.

“Donte Jackson is an outstanding player, captain, leader,” Rhule said in October. “Ultimate brand guy. You make moves in season to win games. Everyone’s contracts and all those things, we’re going to try to be an operation that does things after the season.”

There is no guarantee the two sides will reach an agreement.

Jackson believes he’s one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. And while he’d rather stay with the Panthers, he’ll likely want to be paid like one.

“At the end of the day, I know I’ve still got work to do,” Jackson told The Observer in October. “I still try to come in every day thinking I ain’t getting no respect. I don’t approach it as, ‘Oh, this is your bag year. You’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that. Nah, I think about it as, ‘Nobody in this profession respects you.’ That’s how I approach my job.”

The Panthers, meanwhile, have options at cornerback for this season and beyond, as it is one of their deepest positions. The Panthers drafted rookie cornerbacks Jaycee Horn (first round) and Keith Taylor Jr. (fifth round), and traded for C.J. Henderson and Stephon Gilmore this season. Gilmore will be a free agent this offseason, but he also is an option to re-sign. They also have veteran A.J. Bouye.

Jackson played well early in the 2021 season. He has two interceptions and a forced fumble this year and has 12 picks in his four NFL seasons, the most of any player in the 2018 NFL Draft class.

But he has struggled in the past two weeks. Washington’s Terry McLaurin got the best of him two weeks ago, and Jackson was exposed in man coverage on multiple occasions.

What does this mean for the season?

While Jackson is out, Gilmore, who has been limited with a quad injury, will likely see more playing time. His role has continued to increase since his first game against the Falcons on Oct. 31. The 2019 NFL defensive player of the year played 58% of the team’s snaps Sunday against Miami, a season-high.

Gilmore has primarily been used in third-down situations as he continues to work his way back from the quad injury he sustained late in 2020. He said he’s getting close to 100%.

Jackson’s injury will also mean more snaps for Henderson, who started opposite of him last week and played in 38% of the team’s snaps. The Panthers had high hopes for Henderson, who they acquired earlier this season. Henderson has been dealing with a shoulder for most of the season and was inactive for three games, but he’s shown improvement recently.

Taylor, the rookie, is also an option. He’s shown flashes of potential, particularly his 10-tackle, three-pass deflection performance against Minnesota.

The Panthers filled the roster spot Tuesday by activating guard Deonte Brown. He had been designated to return from IR after missing time with a knee injury.

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