Panthers rookie cornerback Donte Jackson is showing he can talk the talk.
Now coach Ron Rivera is hoping the team’s second-round draft pick can walk the walk.
The Louisiana State standout has already turned heads at training camp Eric Staal Jersey , displaying impressive speed – and a cocky swagger to match.
”He is fast, and I love his confidence level,” Rivera said of the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Jackson. ”We haven’t had a guy like that since Josh Norman.”
Norman was an All-Pro cornerback for the Panthers in 2015, the year Carolina went 17-2 and reached the Super Bowl. But he was released the following season because of a contract disagreement and signed with the Washington Redskins.
The Panthers have found one solid replacement at cornerback in James Bradberry, and are in search of another. With veteran Ross Cockrell going down with a leg injury on Monday, Jackson may be called on to fill the other starting spot.
Not surprisingly, Jackson said he’s up to the task.
”Coming into the NFL I have always felt like I belonged here,” Jackson said.
Panthers cornerback Kevon Seymour has seen firsthand Jackson’s swagger. Seymour said when running back Christian McCaffrey was racing down the field, Jackson turned to teammates and said, ”He might outrun y’all, but he ain’t gonna outrun me. I’m way too fast for that. I’m like electricity. Shoooooom!”’
With that, Seymour started to laugh.
”That is how much confidence he has,” Seymour said.
Back in minicamp, Jackson told reporters he’s like the Beyonce song ”I just woke up like this.”
When Rivera heard that he broke into a wide grin.
”He is a personality Adam Larsson Jersey ,” Rivera told the team’s website in May. ”He’s got a lot of confidence. You see it on the field. You see it when you talk to him. You watch it in his gait, the way he carries himself. That’s the type of attitude you have to have if you want to play in this league. You have to have a certain type of swagger. Josh Norman had it. He had it from Day One. You guys saw it. He struggled a little bit, but because of his swagger, he was able to bring himself back. Well, this young man’s got something.”
Jackson, who said he’s been a talker since he played youth football, welcomes the comparisons to Norman.
”I’m not quiet out there, and I play the same position” as Norman, Jackson said. ”We both talk a lot and compete at a high level so that’s going to draw a lot of comparison.”
Said Bradberry: ”He’s definitely confident in himself. I wouldn’t say he’s much of a trash talker. But that is the way people are going to perceive him, because he is very confident in himself. But he does talk a lot. And he’s very fast.”
Jackson’s speed in coverage has been on display on several occasions during training camp. The 5-foot-10, 188-pound cornerback got beat by rookie wide receiver D.J. Moore on one play, but then quickly recovered and broke up the pass.
”He’s not the biggest corner but he’s real fast,” Bradberry said.
When a reporter asked who is the fastest player on the team, Jackson responded by saying ”Donte Jackson, No. 26.”
And when asked if there is a player in the league he can’t cover Valtteri Filppula Jersey , he said, ”C’mon man, you know the answer to that. I don’t feel like there is anybody I can’t cover.”
His Twitter handle reads Donte ”Action” Jackson because he says ”I’m about that action, simple as that.”
The Panthers sure hope so.
”It’s good to see,” Rivera said of Jackson’s confidence level. ”But remember, you have to back it up.”
The Indiana Pacers have been winning together, losing together and fighting together all season.
Now they need to demonstrate their resilience once more as they try to save their season by rebounding from an emotional loss to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
”Nobody thought we’d be in this situation,” Victor Oladipo said, referring to the playoffs. ”It’s important for us to stick together now because we’ve seen where it can go, where it can take us and it’s great.”
The immediate problem is recent history doesn’t bode well for the underdog Pacers, who trail 3-2 with Game 5 set for Friday in Indianapolis.
Cleveland swept Indiana in the first round last year, winning four games by a record low 16 total points. James has won 10 straight close-out games and has never lost a first-round series. Indiana, meanwhile, is trying to reach the conference semifinals for the first time since 2014.
But the Pacers don’t care about stats, projections or conventional wisdom – as they’ve proven repeatedly this season.
Following last summer’s Paul George trade Steven Stamkos Jersey , Indiana seemed bound for the draft lottery. Instead, general manager Kevin Pritchard cobbled together a rare combination of proven, often overlooked veterans, emerging stars, good shooters and willing defenders.
It turned out to be a perfect fit.
Indiana won 48 games, six more than it did with George last season, and is a win away from forcing the three-time defending Eastern Conference champs into a decisive seventh game.
Cleveland has learned one lesson the hard way: The fifth-seeded Pacers won’t go away. They won 12 times after facing double-digit deficits and eight times after trailing by 15 or more during the regular season.
So perhaps it should come as no surprise Indiana has erased double-digit deficits in four straight game and wound up taking the lead or having a chance to win late in all four in this series.
”That team does not quit,” James said, moments after his buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave Cleveland a 98-95 win to salvage a win Wednesday after Pacers wiped out a 12-point second half to deficit to tie the score in the final minute.
Playing hard until the final buzzer has become the norm for these Pacers.
And they’re savoring every precious second, too.
Nate McMillan recently called this one of the most enjoyable seasons he’s had as a head coach because he knows what he’ll get every day – energy from Oladipo and Lance Stephenson, steadiness from Darren Collison and Corey Joseph, leadership from Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdanovic and an eagerness to develop from Myles Turner and other young players.
With each player embracing their role, the Pacers have formed a cohesive bond.
Six players actually approached Pritchard before the trade deadline and pleaded with the GM not to make any moves because they wanted to close out this season together. Pritchard said it a first for him, and kept the team intact.
”It kind of is like a college team bond,” said Young Colton Parayko Jersey , one of the six players who approached Pritchard. ”Typically you have a lot of NBA teams that don’t bond as well as you do in college when you’re living with each other and you’re around each other all the time. You know in the NBA, you spend time with your family, things like that.
”This team we all hang out together, we go to dinner together on the road. We do everything together.”
The difference has shown.
After enduring an early and sometimes uneven learning curve early this season, the Pacers finally got in sync in early January and played better than anyone, perhaps even McMillan or Pritchard could have anticipated.
From Jan. 6 through the end of the regular season, they went 29-15 and allowed 101.3 points per game and didn’t lose more than two in a row.
They moved up three spots in the Eastern Conference postseason pecking order and headed into their latest round against James having won three of the four regular-season matchups. The Pacers even routed the Cavs on their home court in Game 1.
Since then, though, the series has been all-out slugfest and James has gotten the knockout blow in three times.
Now, with their season on the line, the Pacers need to provide a unified front one more time Friday night just to keep this season alive.
”Sure, we’ve still got something to prove. No one believes we can beat Cleveland,” Bogdanovic said. ”It’s about trust in what we’ve got in each other.”
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