Examining Donte Jackson’s Pro Bowl potential in 2020

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Donte Jackson
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Donte Jackson /

Cornerback Donte Jackson faces a pivotal season with the Carolina Panthers in 2020, and a strong showing might lead to his first Pro Bowl selection.

The Carolina Panthers have plenty of questions to answer regarding their defense in 2020. And we are now just 26 days away from seeing this new-look group in action.

This is not the easiest period to be going through such a large-scale rebuild. The Carolina Panthers will not have any preseason games to develop cohesion before they take the field Week 1 against the Las Vegas Raiders. And this might mean a trial by fire during the early stages of the campaign.

There is plenty of athleticism on the defensive side of the ball, even if the Panthers are lacking a bit from an experience standpoint. Carolina’s secondary is somewhere that opposing teams will be looking to exploit often. And whether they can cope in the face of such stern pressure remains to be seen.

Continuing our countdown feature ahead of the new season, we now turn our attention to Carolina’s No. 26. Donte Jackson is heading into 2020 with plenty of responsibility on his shoulders. And the cornerback has worked exceptionally hard during the offseason period to make sure he is fully prepared for the immense challenge that lies ahead.

Donte Jackson has Pro Bowl potential with the Carolina Panthers.

The Panthers are counting on Jackson to deliver the goods in no uncertain terms. Their confidence in the player was highlighted by not bringing back previous No. 1 option James Bradberry in free agency. And although it is still unknown how the former LSU standout will fare going up against the opposition’s best receiving threat on an every-down basis. He does have plenty going for him in terms of ability.

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Jackson’s quickness is a standout feature of his game. He is lightning fast which not only assists him going down the field with wideouts. But it also a fantastic asset to have in the recovery aspect of the game.

There are some areas of his game that need brushing up if Jackson wants to be considered as a cornerback with shutdown potential. His decision-making has cost him at times. And his reaction to route-running is something else that the 2018 second-round pick needs to make adjustments with.

The player has been working closely with former NFL star and current ESPN analyst Ryan Clark on highlighting problems and improving on areas of need. This is something that received the Panthers’ seal of approval. And it is another boost for Jackson in pursuit of entering the elite discussion in 2020.

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It is hard to gauge just how well Jackson is going to get on against the likes of Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, and Chris Godwin consistently. Carolina does not have much in the way of genuine quality behind him. So shadowing the best in the business is a realistic option that the Panthers have no alternative other than to use.

If Jackson can reach or even surpass expectations in 2020. There is nothing to suggest he cannot earn his first Pro Bowl selection. This distinction has lost some creditability in recent years. But it would represent an outstanding achievement from the player who goes into the campaign with plenty to prove.

Jackson gave up 38 of 60 targets thrown his way in 2019. This resulted in a modest 55.6 grade from Pro Football Focus and stats totaling 32 solo tackles, eight pass deflections, and three interceptions. The corner has seven picks during his first two seasons in the NFL. And this leaves plenty of encouragement regarding his chances of coping with a substantial step-up in class.

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Should Jackson become a corner with true shutdown potential, then it might also come with a big payday next spring. He is set to earn a base salary of $1.13 million in the final year of his rookie deal in 2021. And a strong showing next time around would leave the Panthers no alternative other than to pay him the going rate.