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Rivera credits Kony Ealy for doing the dirty work

CHARLOTTE -- Sometimes playing on the defensive line involves occupying space, blockers or both to allow teammates to make plays.

Sunday's season opener against the Jaguars was one of those days for defensive end Kony Ealy, who did not show up with a statistic on the box score but earned a positive review from head coach Ron Rivera.

"I thought Kony had a good game," Rivera said Monday. "It's not going to reflect in the stats, but when you go back, you look at the plays he allowed to happen by his teammates. Those are the things you get excited about.

"He did the dirty work this week. He got doubled at times in the running game and took up two blockers, and he held the point of attack very nicely and allowed the linebackers to run freely."

Said Ealy: "Whether it was setting the edge, whether it was looping outside and holding my gap or retracing…I did what I needed to do for my team."

Still, Ealy has high personal expectations and wants to contribute more, especially when it comes to rushing the passer.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself. I expect to have at least have one sack per game," Ealy said. "Sometimes that may not be the case, and we've got a long season ahead."

Ealy understands there will be those who doubt him after a failing to record a statistic in the opener, but he embraces the challenge.

"I do (like being doubted)," Ealy said. "It fills my energy and I look forward to the next week so I can come out harder. I've always been doubted in some part of my game, and that has brought the best out of me."

ADDISON CAROLINA'S CLOSER: After Mario Addison recorded two sacks and a hit on Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles that led to an interception in the second half of Sunday's victory, Rivera was asked if he envisions a scenario where the defensive end could play more frequently.

"He, for the most part, is a second-and-long and third-down situational pass rusher for us," Rivera said.

And the Panthers like having a pass rusher to play that specific role. The 6-3, 260-pound Addison, who also is a key figure on special teams, brings speed off the edge and has the potential to wreak havoc when he's fresh.

"Part of it is because a guy his size you don't want out there every snap getting worn down," Rivera said. "When you get into a game where you have a lead in the fourth quarter, you want him as fresh as possible. You saw the end results when a guy like that is ready to roll."

PICKING SPOTS WITH SHAQ: Rookie linebacker Shaq Thompson played 25 percent of the total defensive snaps Sunday, and while Jacksonville's personnel groupings played a part in that, Rivera said the first-round pick likely will see that type of workload throughout the season.

The versatile Thompson is a bit of a wildcard for Carolina's defense, as offenses don't necessarily know if the Panthers are in nickel or base alignment when he's on the field.

"That's exactly it," Rivera said. "Just because he is out there doesn't mean we are in one package or the other."

SPECIAL TEAMS REVIEW: Rivera was pleased with the work of the coverage teams, which helped Carolina win the field position battle against the Jaguars.

"I thought the coverage was pretty good," Rivera said. "We won the field position battle, and that's one of the things that I look at."

He was disappointed, however, in the field goal block the Panthers allowed late in the fourth quarter.

Rivera knows opposing teams will try to exploit the field goal block unit going forward, and it's a challenge for the group to not let that happen again.

"We lunged a little bit forward and kicked out a little wide because they overloaded on one side and (Chris Clemons) was able to swim through and get his hand up," Rivera explained. "I'd like to see us be a little more stout. It leaves a bad taste. We have to shore it up now."

View the top photos by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez from Carolina's game against Jacksonville.

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