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Carolina Panthers

Rookies Jackson and Gaulden getting up to speed


CHARLOTTE – Defensive backs Donte Jackson and Rashaan Gaulden are the latest rookie pair in Carolina to be somewhat connected at the hip.

Like defensive tackles Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei, guards Trai Turner and Andrew Norwell, cornerbacks James Bradberry and Daryl Worley, it's helpful to have someone to lean on experiencing a similar transition.

And having lockers right next to one another only expedites the connection.

So when minicamp wrapped up and Gaulden started fielding questions from the media, it was only right that Jackson immediately joined in.

"He's got a different swagger about him," Gaulden said with Jackson standing next to him and listening intently. "We feed off each other. We want to spark this defense in any way we can."

Jackson couldn't help but interject: "That's a media answer. I taught him…"

Gaulden: "Please, bro."

Jackson: "A little bit of swagger and a little bit of confidence, you know what I'm saying? Little bro, had to take him under my wing."

Gaulden: "I'm big bro."

Jackson: "I feel like by training camp he's going to be ready and have all that swagger and confidence I've tried to instill in him these past few weeks."

Gaulden: "Oh my gosh."

Jackson: "It's never too late to get sauce."

That back-and-forth encapsulates their relationship. Jackson, the energetic, second-round cornerback full of swagger. Gaulden, the more reserved third-round safety who prefers to do his talking on the field.

Different ways of approaching the game, no doubt. But both are determined to contribute as rookies.

"We've got a great group of guys that have been willing to take us in and let us know, 'We need y'all to grow up faster than you already are,'" Gaulden said.

Easier said than done in this league.

"We understood coming in that there was going to be a lot to learn," Jackson said. "These guys are great teammates and they make it as easy as possible for us to grasp what we're doing out here with the terminology and the playbook."

Spring practices are always challenging for rookies. But once they got through a few weeks of OTAs and began minicamp, there were a lot more ups than downs for both Jackson and Gaulden.

You play faster when you know where to be and what to do, and when Jackson and his 4.3 speed plays fast, it's really fast. Gaulden, known for his physicality, showed better timing and started making more plays on the ball in the final few practices.

Now we'll wait to see if they can pick up where they left off when they arrive for the their first NFL training camp.

"This game is fast when you start, but when you lock into the small details, then you begin to figure out what you need to do," Gaulden explained. "It's just putting all the pieces together and knowing what you need to do when you line up. And learning every day from your mistakes."