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Carolina Panthers

Jeremy Chinn settling into his new home

Jeremy Chinn

CHARLOTTE — It's taken some getting used to, but Jeremy Chinn feels pretty comfortable in his new home.

That's not just a new position under a new coach in a new defense; it's a new locker at the other end of the room.

He used to be down near the quarterbacks, closer to the break room with the golf simulator and the meeting room door. It was a mostly quiet street (except for the second half of 2021 when Cam Newton moved in next door), but now he's tucked in between cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and Donte Jackson, with defensive end Brian Burns just on the other side of Horn. It's a noisy corner where a lot of activity is centered around three of the biggest personalities in the room. Down there, Chinn almost seems like a suburban guy who moved downtown as he quietly studied some film on his tablet in front of his locker while Burns and Jackson were holding court and trading jokes over the top of him earlier this week.

"It's lovely," Chinn said with a grin. "We talk ball all day."

"It made this locker room corner even better," Horn said. "Rounds out the neighborhood."

Jeremy Chinn, Jaycee Horn, Donte Jackson

Make no mistake, from all outward appearances, Chinn is the serious and perhaps quiet one of this group, but that's not an achievement when you're surrounded by three guys as vocal as Jackson, Burns, and Horn. Suffice it to say, they object to the characterization that Chinn's that way.

"Damn, he's the one that's making all the noise," Jackson said. "That's how he's got y'all fooled."

"Facts," Burns replied. "He starts all the problems."

They've quickly adopted him into the family, and brought him into their world in that back corner, a set of bunk beds and a drum kit short of a scene from a Will Ferrell/John C. Really movie.

"We are related. Chinn is like the stepbrother," Burns said.

"He's got a different daddy," Jackson replied with a laugh.

"He comes over on the weekends," Burns added, as they continued to crack themselves up.

But the serious part of this conversation is that Chinn moving lockers also stands as a metaphor since he's being cast into a new role as well. He's going to do a number of things, but his primary role is as their nickel back, a quasi-cornerback who is closer to the line of scrimmage and is asked to cover more. It's not quite like the linebacker role he played as a rookie or the full-time safety role he had since then. They brought Vonn Bell in for that one this offseason, freeing Chinn up to do other things in new coordinator Ejiro Evero's system.

And while becoming something new isn't necessarily anything new for Chinn, exploring a new space seems comfortable for him.

"I feel good," Chinn said about this latest transition. "I feel confident in this defense, and now it's a matter of going out and having fun with it and bringing it to life."

Jeremy Chinn

It took some time to reach that point, but he said during OTAs this spring, after talking to Evero at length, it began feeling more like home. It might have seemed unusual at first when they made a quick move to sign a free agent at his position, but he moved past that.

"Once we talked about what their plans were and things like that, it was good. "They always made me feel at ease about what I'd be doing here."

And maybe it's his soft-spoken nature (at least in public, apparently), but Chinn undersells the potential this system offers. While he might have been small for a linebacker, he's generally made more plays when he was closer to the line of scrimmage, so this seems like a fit.

"Definitely, being closer to the action at nickel, I take it that he loves it, and I think he's comfortable," safety Xavier Woods said. "I think that's why he's there. He's around the action. At the safety position, it's a little hit-and-miss sometimes. But with a talent like that, you want to be able to use him as that secret weapon."

Jackson, who, despite the jokes, appreciates his new neighbor, said that comfort stems from the fact that Chinn always poured himself into learning whatever role was asked, whether it was his individual study with assistant Al Holcomb when he was a linebacker or taking part in every part of secondary meetings, rather than being in a silo with just the safeties or just the corners.

"He always was a hard worker. He always was a guy who understood the defense as a whole from the corner to nickel to safety, and that was then when we were still in coach (Phil) Snow's defense," Jackson said of the previous coordinator. "We always knew that whatever this defense asks from him, he was going to be the guy to go get it done because he's one of those guys that, energy-wise, we all follow.

"He's just a dynamic player regardless. He's a see-ball, get-ball type of guy. And with those types of guys, you never really want to box him in and tell him to do this when this happens or do this when this happens. You kind of just want to let those type of guys just fly around and make plays, and that's what Chinn has always been, you know, dating back to when he first got here."

From that standpoint, what they're hoping to see from him on the field might not be so different. But maybe there's something about Jeremy Chinn that we don't see on the surface and that hanging around on a new block brings out.

"Yeah, the public would never see it, but in this locker room, yeah, he's not that quiet person," Woods said with a laugh. "It's a family in here. He may be quiet, like me, but once it's just us as brothers, he gets to act, you know, the way he wants to."

View photos of the Panthers' practice on Wednesday.

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