Donte Jackson is in the third year of his rookie contract, but the Panthers cornerback is in his first year of being the guy to lineup against the opposing team’s best receiver. Jackson will have his hands full Sunday when DeAndre Hopkins and the Arizona Cardinals roll into town.
Hopkins is widely considered one of the best receivers in the league and the numbers back him up. Three games into the season he is the NFL’s leader in receiving yards and has been in the top six since 2017. Simply put, he’s “that guy” and when cornerbacks’ agents present their resume during contract negotiations general managers will look at their performance against Hopkins and players of his caliber.
“He catches everything,” Jackson said during media availability Wednesday. “He gets a lot of targets for that reason. He rarely puts anything on the ground, so his quarterbacks trust him. He’s a savvy vet who knows how to use his hands.”
Jackson is no stranger to making plays himself. Last week, he recorded his second interception of the season – the second time in his career that he’s recorded an interception in back-to-back games. Donte also has nine career interceptions (more than any other player from his draft class) – two of which he snatched in last season’s 38-20 win over Arizona.
The NFC South has arguably the best receiving group in the NFL with Julio Jones, Michael Thomas and Mike Evans. Add Hopkins to that list and Donte has more than enough opportunities to prove his worth.
Six year veteran Tre Boston, has seen an increased level of focus from Jackson since becoming the number one cornerback on the Panthers’ depth chart.
“What I’ve seen by D Jack is laser-like focus. The man’s focus right now is untouchable. The flow he’s in is because of the hard work he’s putting in behind the scenes. Coming in early for treatment. Staying late for film. Texting my phone about different situations. He’s playing with all the confidence that he has because of how prepared he is. This is a year he knew the eyes would be on him and right now he’s taking it forefront and he’s stepping up for us and playing big ball.”
Sunday, Jackson will get another opportunity to pad his resume against the best and he’s looking forward to it.
“He’s just competitive,” Jackson added when talking about the matchup. “I’m looking forward to it, because I’m competitive. So it’s going to be one of those matchups that you’ve got to be ready for. You can’t come in here not locked in for a practice day. Not locked in for a film day, because you know that guy is going to be locked in every single play and he’s going to compete.”