With 53 players in all on the Carolina Panthers and only so much time to explore them, more than a few notable members of the 2018 team found themselves in out of sight and out of mind in NFL Films’ All or Nothing. On offense, wide receiver Curtis Samuel‘s backstory is hardly explored despite him appearing in highlight after highlight. On defense, cornerback James Bradberry and defensive end Mario Addison suffer the same fate. In the grand scheme of the story, veteran safety Mike Adams and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn are among the players who take a backseat. But one of the most notable scenes of the series puts him at front and center – and shows just why “Pops” was so respected during his two-year Panthers career.
In Episode Five, with the Panthers preparing for their Week 10 match against the Pittsburgh Steelers, rookie cornerback Donte Jackson is highlighted as he prepares to take on superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown. Jackson’s spectacular rookie campaign, which saw him record four interceptions in the first half of the year, is then revisited up to that point – before Jackson is depicted as growing a little too big for his britches.
In practice, Jackson receives his fair share of attention from defensive backs coach Richard Rodgers, as well as Adams and Munnerlyn. But in a one-on-one meeting with assistant defensive backs coach Jeff Imamura, Jackson bristles at the Panthers’ concerns about his focus.
“I just feel like y’all concerned because I’m a rookie,” said Jackson. “Ain’t nobody got to be nervous about me … That’s the frustrating part about it, because y’all baby me.”
But in another practice, Jackson is corrected for both his footwork and for the way he runs trying to cover Damiere Byrd. Afterwards, Adams summons Jackson to stick around after a meeting – and he, as well as Munnerlyn and safety Eric Reid, warn Jackson that his luck will run out if he doesn’t heed others’ warnings about mistakes he is making.
“I need you to lock in. I know you keep saying the mistakes won’t happen again … You’re starting to repeat. And the picks is starting to hide it,” said Adams. “But it can’t hide from us, because we’re on the field. I told you bro, you’ve got the potential to be the best at this [expletive]. I’ve seen it before, you know what I mean? And I want you to be great. And you’ve got to understand that. So everything I’m saying is coming from a great place. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I let [expletive] slide like this. You can’t get lazy, bro!”
It is then that Munnerlyn steps in, adding to what Adams is saying as Jackson gets ready to face Brown.
“You catch your picks, you make your plays. Nobody can’t take that away from you – you making plays. But this week? They gonna target you,” said Munnerlyn. “They gonna target that boy, and he gonna talk [expletive], he gonna try and get in your head. And don’t be no buddy-buddy with him neither. That’s when he know he got you. Don’t be like ‘Oh man, wassup bro?’ [Expletive] that! No ‘good game’, no ‘good catch’. Don’t do that with him. That’s when he know he got you. [Expletive] him!”
Jackson listens, but still insists that he is critical enough of himself already, and doesn’t need to be reminded to stay humble and not get complacent. Adams, however, won’t let up.
“All that goes away if you keep repeating the same [expletive],” said Adams. “And I understand you gonna be good and you all that, but we – us three – we gonna sit you down and be like ‘Nah, you ain’t that good.’ Until you shut some [expletive] down, nah, bro! And we here to see you dominate. What I told you: That No. 2 receiver shouldn’t eat [expletive]. Now you got a No. 1.”
The fears of Jackson’s teammates are ultimately realized, as Jackson ends up surrendering a deep touchdown pass to Brown. And afterwards, Munnerlyn is among the players who have to talk Jackson – furious that the referees did not flag Brown for pushing off – off the ledge.
“HE WENT THE WHOLE [expletive] PLAY WITH HIS ARM OUT!”, yells Jackson. “[Expletive]!”
“They ain’t gonna call that [expletive], man,” Munnerlyn tells Jackson, before letting Rodgers handle the rest of the situation. “Don’t worry about it! Just finish playing! Finish playing!”
Although the Steelers game was a lowlight for Jackson, he still managed to establish himself as one of the NFL’s most promising young cornerbacks in his rookie year. And though he won’t have Adams and Munnerlyn in the defensive backs room moving forward – both were let go by the Panthers this offseason – he will surely be better throughout his career for the lessons he has learned from them.