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Panthers 2021 season opener countdown: 26 days to go

We’re counting down the days until the Panthers kick off the 2021 season.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

We’re 26 days away from the Carolina Panthers 2021 season opener, so today’s countdown piece is devoted to No. 26 on the roster — cornerback Donte Jackson.

Jackson is 25 years old and entering his fourth NFL season after having been picked in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Panthers. Known for his speed, recovery ability, and ability to make some eye-popping interceptions, Jackson’s place on the Panthers roster is known and well secure. This year, with the drafting of Jaycee Horn in the first round, Jackson and Horn are likely to match whichever receivers they more skillfully align with, and Jackson will likely be glued to the fastest guy on the field.

Jackson’s speed and ability are not in doubt, but his tackling skills and health seemingly always are. Last year he battled the longest case of turf toe I can ever remember, and hopefully this year will not be more of the same nagging injuries that keep him playing, but hampered. He also needs to work on a more sound tackling technique. He will occasionally impress with a brilliant open field tackle behind the line of scrimmage, and a big hit due to just how fast he can close on someone, but other times his light frame seems to get bounced around. I guess you can’t have it all.

This is an important year for Jackson, as it will be the last year on his rookie deal with the team. A good showing could see him paid handsomely, while another year of inconsistency and/or injury could cost a lot. The Panthers have the potential to be a strong young defensive unit this year, and Jackson will play a key role in that coming to fruition.