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Donte Jackson backing up the talk

CHARLOTTE – Rookie cornerback Donte Jackson talks a big game.

And with three interceptions in three career games, he's backing it up.

"The rookie can play," Jackson said following Carolina's 31-21 win over Cincinnati. "The biggest job for a talker is to back it up. I've just got to keep doing it. It's a long season."

After recording his first career interception in last week's loss at Atlanta, Jackson picked off Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton twice while also recording seven tackles.

And he did it with hardly any practice time this week as he sat out on Wednesday and Thursday while recovering from the groin injury he suffered against the Falcons.

"I was very confident. If I wasn't confident I wouldn't have told you guys that I was going to play last week," Jackson said. "Great training staff had me doing treatment all week in the early mornings. That game that I just played was a shout-out to those guys in the training room for getting me back right."

Jackson's first interception came late in the first quarter on third-and-17 as Dalton tried to connect with wide receiver John Ross at the sticks. The Panthers' film study during the week of prep led them to believe Dalton was going to give them chances to get their hands on the ball. And that's what Jackson did.

"I had a feeling about the route he was going to give me," Jackson said. "I read my keys, looked up and the ball was right there, and then I've got to go make a play on it."

The second interception was gifted to him. With Carolina leading by a touchdown with 3:40 left in the game, Dalton launched a deep pass for Ross that was way off the mark. Jackson tracked it down like a punt for the Panthers' third of four interceptions on the day (defensive end Efe Obada and Luke Kuechly had the other two).

"I was like, 'Appreciate you 14!" Jackson said, referencing Dalton. "He was being very generous out there."

Jackson talks the way he plays – a ton of confidence, no hesitation, full of energy and fun.

Quarterback Cam Newton appreciates that more than most. He also appreciates the work Jackson puts in behind the scenes.

"Coach has said it numerous times, we embrace egos. Especially if it's controlled," Newton said. "If you don't have confidence in yourself, who in the hell do you expect to have confidence in you? That's how we feel.

"Donte's been a person who has come in and surprised me just off the mere fact of his learning ability. On the field he's a different person, but when we're in meetings he's extremely quiet and very observant and you respect that as a vet looking and seeing guys take notes. He's been asking questions, doing his job and making great (plays) when they are there to be made."

The second-round pick from LSU currently finds himself atop the NFL leaderboard for interceptions, tied with Miami cornerback Xavien Howard.

With three picks through three weeks, how many is the rookie going to reel in before the year is done?

"The plan is to finish very, very high," Jackson said. "Hopefully I'll have a whole bag of balls at the crib. That's the plan. That's what I'm working for."