SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Head coach Ron Rivera said he was hoping for more from the defensive ends during the preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills. The players felt the same way.
"I'm disappointed in my play as well," defensive end Frank Alexander said. "I wanted to play better. I will get better. I'm going to come to work every day to get better."
Said defensive end Kony Ealy: "We just have to tighten up a couple things and make more of an effort to get to the ball. Overall, we just have to do a better job."
Alexander and Ealy – two of the candidates battling for the starting job opposite Charles Johnson – combined for one quarterback pressure and zero tackles against the Bills.
"It was the first preseason game – whatever we lacked, we just have to come back now and make up for that," Alexander said. "We didn't get as much production as wanted to get, but that's why we've got three more games to try to work our way up for Week 1."
Many consider Alexander, a four-year veteran, the favorite to emerge as the starter for the regular season opener. But his own expectations are serving as the driving force during training camp and the preseason.
"I'm hard on myself," Alexander said, "because I want to be great."
Ealy, a second-round pick in 2014, is full of potential. He's still a young buck developing consistency within Carolina's system.
It may look at times like Rivera is particularly hard on Ealy, but he doesn't see it that way.
"No, not at all," Ealy explained. "I know what he expects out of me as a player and as an individual."
Rivera and Ealy are on the same page when it comes to those expectations.
"To be a dominant end," Ealy said, "period."