Carolina Panthers CB Jaycee Horn has fuel for a 2022 breakout

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Jaycee Horn
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Jaycee Horn /

Jaycee Horn’s broken foot kept him from making a significant impact in 2021, but the Carolina Panthers cornerback has an incredibly bright future.

There was and still is an enormous amount of excitement surrounding Jaycee Horn. A dominant start to his NFL career left many wondering if he was the shutdown cornerback the Carolina Panthers had been searching for, but a broken foot suffered at the Houston Texans on Thursday Night Football in Week 3 derailed his progress and left the No. 8 overall selection sidelined for the rest of 2021.

Not exactly ideal for the player or the Panthers. Horn was taken ahead of some top prospects who thrived in the first seasons – which led many to wonder whether Carolina made the right call.

This is something that isn’t going unnoticed by Horn, who came into the Panthers with a dog mentality that enabled him to hit the ground running. Opposing quarterbacks rarely threw in his direction before injury struck, which is a strong indicator of the respect which he is already held among league circles.

Hindsight is a great thing to have. And perhaps the likes of Justin Fields, Micah Parsons, or Rashawn Slater could have made a bigger impression right out of the gate.

But that does not detract from what a special talent Horn is within a clear positional need at the time.

It’s easy to forget that the Panthers had almost nobody capable of playing man coverage in 2020 with Donte Jackson out injured. This led to severe complications getting off the field on third down, and defensive coordinator Phil Snow being forced to play Cover 2, 3, and 4 due to personnel.

Jaycee Horn can still have a great career with the Carolina Panthers

Horn changed all that in an instant. The South Carolina product was an absolute revelation and providing there are no further problems on the health front, a Pro Bowl-caliber career is sure to follow.

Being away from the game has obviously been frustrating for Horn, who has no doubt heard all the talk surrounding what the Panthers could have done at No. 8 instead. This should be all the corner needs for additional motivation this offseason in pursuit of silencing some of these doubters when competitive action begins once again.

It was the smallest of sample sizes, obviously. But Horn’s stats over his first three games were very encouraging.

  • 5 tackles
  • 1 interception
  • 1 pass defended
  • 28.6% completion allowed
  • 18 receiving yards allowed
  • 39.6 passer rating when targeted
  • 1 missed tackle (16.7%)
  • 67.8 PFF Grade

Had Horn kept this up for the entire campaign, he would have been in the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year conversation despite Parsons’ exceptional efforts with the Dallas Cowboys and Slater earning second-team All-Pro honors with the Los Angeles Chargers.

The son of former Pro Bowl wide receiver Jor Horn is a difference-maker with a swagger that’s hard not to love. So the sooner he gets back into the lineup, the better Carolina’s chances will be.

The Panthers still have some young talent in their cornerback room. Horn, C.J. Henderson, and Keith Taylor Jr. provide a solid foundation from which to build, and hopefully, the team can re-sign either Stephon Gilmore or Donte Jackson to further boost their options.

There is no point focusing on who the Panthers might have picked anymore. Horn was the call and he’s done nothing to suggest he wasn’t worthy of such a high-end draft selection before his season ended way ahead of time.

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Adding fuel to Horn’s fire won’t hurt. So expect big things from the cornerback in 2022.