Panthers notebook: Confidence in Dennis Daley

Dennis Daley

CHARLOTTE — Panthers head coach Matt Rhule has been talking up Dennis Daley all summer.

So when he found out that Daley was going to need to start in the regular-season opener, Rhule had no hesitation.

"I'm really comfortable with Dennis," Rhule said Monday. "We feel like he should be starting. He has the skill set of a starter. He's just had some bumps along the way, . . . but he has his opportunity.

"He can settle down this week and know that he's the right guard. I think he has tremendous power; he's got quickness, he's got length, he should play really well."

They needed Daley since veteran right guard John Miller landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday morning. Rhule said Miller would be out this week, and would miss 10 days.

Miller has missed a bit of time in the preseason, and Daley filled in for him during joint practices with the Ravens and in the second preseason game. But throughout his career, Daley has been the one in and out of the lineup.

Daley went on IR last year after starting three games at left guard, and has been bothered by injuries throughout his first two seasons. He also missed the trip to Indianapolis to be home for the birth of his daughter Charlie on Aug. 9. He smiled about that one, calling it a "beautiful moment, I love my little girl."

"Last year, I was dealing with injuries myself, so I kind of missed the majority of the season," he said. "I'm just blessed and grateful to go back out here and play again."

The former sixth-round pick from South Carolina grew up playing left tackle, and said he never got any work at guard before his rookie year, when former Pro Bowler Trai Turner started giving him tips.

"At guard, everything happens quicker," Daley said. "At tackle, you get a few yards before you engage with the opponents. He taught me how to shoot the hands early; you've got to be accurate, you've got to be anchored, you've got to be very grounded when you play inside."

Rhule wasn't the only one vouching for Daley Monday. Rookie cornerback Jaycee Horn played with Daley for one year in college.

"He was a good player — a dog," Horn said. "Definitely one of the guys I looked up to coming into college as a freshman. Just the way he practiced and his attitude on the field. I'm sure he's going to do a good job on Sunday as well."

— Speaking of Horn, the first-rounder took a low-key approach to discussions of his first NFL game.

Because he grew up in a football family, he knows about to the bright lights that come with the start of a season. So he wasn't going overboard in discussing this week's debut.

"It's all the same to me; I really feel the same," Horn said. "As we get closer to game day, I'm sure ill start having different feelings and different emotions, but right now, I'm just trying to focus on the Jets, their offensive schemes, and all that, and just play ball on Sunday."

— Focusing on the game was the theme of the day.

Rhule emphasized that because there's so much unknown with the Jets (new coach, new quarterback, etc.), the Panthers had to concentrate on themselves first.

"For us, the focus has to be on us, making sure we all do our jobs, making sure we play to our standard," he said. "Every week, you're going to get something thrown at you you're not prepared for, so we have to make sure coaches do a good job of anticipating and showing as many things as possible. But at the same time, our guys have to go back to the old things. Playing hard, tackling, blocking, making catches, affecting the ball. Those are the things that win football games. That's never more true than Week 1."

— Monday's press conference was a vintage performance for Robbie Anderson, so to speak.

He wasn't getting too deep into the Jets matchup, saying he knew very few people from when he left two years ago. And he also said he wasn't "going to overspeak" on quarterback Sam Darnold's chance to play their old team.

But he was "excited" to play this week.

"I've been waiting on this all year, working for this all year," he said. "So I feel like an old bottle of wine that's been preserving."

— Rhule said as much as they liked the preseason work of rookie running back Chuba Hubbard, the chance to claim former Broncos back Royce Freeman adds a dimension. Not only is he experienced, but the 6-foot, 238-pound Freeman has a bigger frame than the other backs in the room.

"Just having another veteran presence," Rhule said. "We have some young backs we like. But in terms of that world, two minute, third down, pass protections, been there, done that, Royce has it.

"I really liked his tape. He comes with a tremendous pedigree in terms of who he is as a player and a professional. We thought it was an opportunity to add a veteran player that could start by doing some of the dirty work, and offers a big-back presence, a 230-pound back. We got him here, we'll see how it works out, but we're excited to get him."

— The Panthers added kicker Dominik Eberle to the practice squad Monday, along with two others, but Rhule suggested that was mostly about having some insurance at the position in the time of COVID-19.

They also signed former Bengals receiver/return man Alex Erickson, and Rhule said he could be an option for a return role this week. He said Hubbard would likely handle kickoffs if they had to play today.

View photos from Monday's practice in Week 1 as the Panthers prepare to face the Jets.

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