Preseason positional battles will be decided in coming weeks, and these 10 NFL rookies impressed in their debut performances.
The first weekend of preseason madness helped quench our thirst for NFL action. Fans relish in the drama, narratives, and opportunity to stan for their favorite teams. But it’s the players who are battling to earn the trust of their coaching staff and win playing time.
Rookies are often behind the cast of veterans slated to play in subpackages, but the 2018 class was able take advantage of their first gameday action. 10 rookies looked primed to claim the role most available to them in Week 1 as they impressed.
Each will need to practice as well as they played, and then continue to show positive growth in the remaining three weeks of preseason games before anything is settled. Their hot start matters though, as being in the driver’s seat for a starting job or as a primary backup can lead to more long-term success.
10. Donte Jackson, CB, Carolina Panthers
Winning a starting job isn’t always about what one player done, but the culmination of all parties. That was the case in Week 1 for second-round pick Donte Jackson. The rookie cornerback looked capable as he allowed only one completion for 14 yards in his debut.
His competition was terrible, though. Keyvon Seymour was torched for three catches, 49 yards, one touchdown and a defensive pass interference on the first Bills drive of the game. Seymour struggled in 2017 as well, but was elevated to starter this week as James Bradberry was out, and Ross Cockrell went on injured reserve last month.
Jackson should now be in the driver’s seat as he’s drawn rave reviews in camp. He’s small in stature but plays with enough leverage and play strength to challenge receivers in press. His off-ball coverage and zone instincts will be tested in Carolina’s scheme, but there’s not a more talented competitor on the roster.
Unless the Panthers revisit talks with Bashaud Breeland, Jackson looks like he claimed the early driver’s seat for the job.