Carolina Panthers: ESPN pundit is key to Donte Jackson’s success

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Donte Jackson
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Donte Jackson /

Could former NFL star and current ESPN pundit Ryan Clark be the key behind Donte Jackson achieving success with the Carolina Panthers in 2020?

There is plenty riding on next season for Donte Jackson. The talented cornerback is the No. 1 option for the Carolina Panthers following the departure of James Bradberry. And this is a significant step-up in class for the player.

Covering the opposition’s best receiving threat prominently is a step into the unknown for Jackson. This is something he did prominently during his college career at LSU. But coming against the likes of Julio Jones, Chris Godwin, and Michael Thomas on almost every down is a stern challenge presented to him by the Carolina Panthers’ coaching staff.

Jackson has taken on this responsibility with his customary grit and determination this offseason. He has worked hard to improve his physicality. And he even sought the counsel of a former NFL star who now works as a pundit on ESPN.

Ryan Clark enjoyed a tremendous 13-year career with the New York Giants, Washington, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is a Super Bowl winner and a Pro Bowler who is always keen to pass on his expertise to current players across the league.

This is something that Jackson took full advantage of after reaching out to Clark during last season. The analyst is never backward in coming forwards when it comes to critiquing. And he did not mince his words when he examined the 2018 second-round pick’s performance on film.

"“Maybe around the Seattle game, he (Jackson) 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’.“He has to get the ball, not give up big plays, and not rely so much on his speed, but be able to rely on technique — his eyes, his discipline. That’s what we worked on more than anything, and I think he’s ready to execute those things.”"

Donte Jackson can reach new heights with the Carolina Panthers in 2020.

There is little disputing the fact that Jackson is one of the NFL’s quickest cornerbacks. He is able to go down the field with even the speediest receivers with ease. But putting it all together on the field has been a problem on occasions.

This is something Jackson worked on prominently with Clark during the offseason. And the former Steeler is confident that once the third-year pro makes the necessary adjustments, it is going to see a substantial increase in productivity.

"“He’s built in a way that NFL defensive backs need to be built. His core is in a different place than it’s ever been, which allows you to be able to distribute weight, it allows you to have the center of gravity that you need to get in and out of cuts. Everybody knows, if Donte gets out of his cut the same time you do, he’s getting to the ball first. Unless your name’s Tyreek Hill, you’re in trouble. So that’s what we worked on.”"

If Jackson can take on board what he learned from Clark and put it to good use in 2020, then there is every chance he can make a real go of this opportunity. The sky is the limit in terms of skill set. And the Panthers will be counting on him to reach his promise in no uncertain terms next season.

They are coming up against some elite passing attacks. And Carolina does not really know what the defense is going to get from free-agent signing Eli Apple or fourth-rounder Troy Pride Jr. in 2020.

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Jackson could be in line for a big payday next spring if he proves his shutdown potential next season. He is heading into the penultimate year of his rookie deal. And the Panthers would be only too happy to shell out big bucks if he reaches or even surpasses their expectations.