Matt Rhule: Panthers CB Donte Jackson ‘growing a lot as a player’

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Carolina went into this offseason with at least one clear priority defensively: improve a cornerback room that had become a liability. After signing two veterans in free agency and adding two rookies in the draft, it’s fair to say they committed to an overhaul and at least on paper they look much deeper than at this time last year.

The key piece for turning this group around might not be one of the new faces, though. For the Panthers secondary to reach their full potential, they’ll need fourth-year cornerback Donte Jackson to step up and achieve his. Speaking to the media on Wednesday, coach Matt Rhule said Jackson is growing a lot as a player and even used the E word.

“The young guys are learning as they go and Donte [Jackson] is growing a lot as a player. I’ve liked a lot of things that Donte has done. . . Jaycee is going to be a really good player. He’s going to be a valuable part of our team. A lot of guys are really talented and can do a lot of things. A.J. has been to a Pro Bowl, Donte is an elite player we think we just have to keep him healthy and keep him moving in the right direction.”

Jackson performed admirably in 2020. Despite having to play through foot injuries for much of the season, Jackson only allowed 443 yards in coverage and a 79.2 passer rating. He also posted a career-high 15.3% forced incompletion rate.

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Tackling has been a major issue for Jackson since he came into the league, though. In 43 games he’s missed 38 attempts – including 11 last year. At some point, he’ll have to improve that part of his game.

If Jackson cleans up his tackling and continues to improve in coverage, a Pro Bowl appearance or two is possible.

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