Donte Jackson is entering his third year with the Carolina Panthers, which is always a critical season for an NFL cornerback. After a promising rookie campaign, Jackson regressed in some areas in 2019 and eventually found himself on the sidelines near the end of the season.
To his credit, Jackson has admitted that he needed to upgrade his game. With that in mind, Jackson spent this offseason working with former Steelers Pro Bowler safety Ryan Clark, now an analyst for ESPN and a trainer for defensive backs. Clark says Jackson worked his butt off and he can’t wait to see him ball.
I guess I am a “pundit”, but that’s my family & I’m just “O.G.” to him. He worked his butt off all offseason. Can’t wait to see @_DJack01 ball… he’s gonna make @DB_Precision Fam real proud! Oh it was 13 years BTW https://t.co/bLR3D8t3T1
— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) August 14, 2020
The lowest moment for Jackson before he was benched may have been his showing against the Seahawks, when he was repeatedly beat by both Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf in coverage. Clark says his mentorship with Jackson got started when Jackson reached out to him after that game and asked Clark to critique his performance, per the team website.
“Maybe around the Seattle game, he reached out to me because we have a good relationship, and he asked me to watch it. . . I went back, watched it for him, critiqued it, talked about it. We discussed it. After that, he said, ‘Man, I’m gonna see you as soon as the offseason starts.”
Recognizing that you have a problem is always the first step towards recovery.
Receivers like Lockett and Antonio Brown are going to get the better of even very good cornerbacks from time to time. If Jackson is going to stick around in the NFL, he’ll need to cut down on those “teaching moment” type games and the mental errors that accompany them.
Learning from Clark is a positive sign. There are also examples Jackson can follow that are currently in the league. Marcus Peters went through a similar rough period early in his career. While enormously talented like Jackson, Peters developed a tendency to gamble on routes and attempt to make big plays instead of playing discplined coverage.
Coaching made a huge difference for Peters, who allowed a 111.0 passer rating with the Rams in 2018 and only a 63.4 rating in 10 games with the Ravens last season. Hopefully it can do the same for Jackson.