Donte Jackson should be in Defensive Rookie of the Year conversation
The Panthers corner should have already been there. Sunday, we saw why.
There were many things to take away from the Carolina Panthers difficult loss to the Seattle Seahawks. One thing that stood out in particular was the play of the Carolina Panthers secondary. When they were needed most, they did not come through. Instead, they gave up big plays in crucial moments to give the Seahawks the win. Part of it had to do with the fact that Donte Jackson was out for part of the game. He left the game after landing awkwardly on his knee while trying to tackle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett. He did not return, and thus Carolina was forced to go to the reserves to hold down the secondary.
As we all know by now, they did not do that. If anything, it spoke to how much Jackson means to the secondary while he is out there. As I heard from many Panthers fans after the game, Jackson brings a swagger to the secondary that trickles over to his teammates. It’s almost like the way Josh Norman was. As long as he was out there, it felt like his teammates in the secondary felt like they were invincible. Without Norman in the game, they got exposed. It was the same type of situation we saw on Sunday. With Jackson out, the Carolina Panthers secondary looked lost.
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This, among many other reasons is why Jackson should be in the conversation for Defensive Rookie of the Year. It won’t be an easy win though. It’s not because Jackson is an average player, he just has some stiff competition. Derwin James of the Chargers, Darius Leonard of the Colts, Denzel Ward of the Browns, and Bradley Chubb of the Broncos are all making strong cases. Take any of those players away from their respective defenses, and the outlook would look a lot different for their teams in many of their games this season. That is exactly the scenario with Jackson and the Panthers. Take him out of the equation and it’s a whole different ballgame.
Jackson ranks No. 18 among rookies with 43 tackles on the season. That puts him ahead of Chubb who has 41. In terms of interceptions, he is at the top of the list with four. In second place is Cincinnati Bengals safety Jesse Bates with three. In terms of pass deflections, he is tied for second place with 11. Sharing the spot with James, only Ward is ahead of him with 14. In comparing their statistics side-by-side James is ahead of Jackson in many categories. James has had a fantastic season, and has really been a spark for the Chargers.
I’m not saying that Jackson is going to win the award. The defensive class is too deep for him to do so. If anything I think Derwin James will take on the honors. However, Jackson should at least be considered for the award. If nothing else, it’s for the fact that he means so much to the Panthers both in terms of swagger and playmaking ability. As we saw on Sunday without Jackson, the secondary is a shell of its usual self. Although that won’t show up on the stat sheet per se, it is worth noting. Jackson should at least be in the conversation. As was thrown in our faces Sunday, he means quite a bit to the Panthers defense.