CHARLOTTE – Rookie offensive lineman Dennis Daley was never going to forget his first NFL start, regardless of the outcome.
But to beat the Jaguars at home and rush for 285 yards in the process?
That’s pretty special.
“It felt great,” Daley said. “That’s obviously a great accomplishment. Hopefully, we can keep doing that every week.”
Repeating that kind of performance against the top-ranked Buccaneers run defense will be next to impossible, but hey, that’s all Daley knows.
Daley got his opportunity due to some unfortunate injuries along the O-line. Fellow rookie Greg Little, who started the previous game against Houston at left tackle, couldn’t play due to a concussion. So Daley stepped in at left tackle with veteran Daryl Williams continuing to hold down the right guard spot in place of injured Pro Bowl Trai Turner.
“I was well prepared going into the game,” Daley said. “The guys trusted me. They helped me believe in myself. I did my job. I listened to the vets and just balled out.”
Daley allowed two pressures in the game against Jacksonville, according to Pro Football Focus. All things considered, it was a solid individual performance from the sixth-round pick out of South Carolina.
“I saw him do some really good physical things,” Rivera said. “He got beat a couple times on a couple of quick moves. But again, for the most part, he was working a lot at guard, so this was really the first true week where he was plugged in at left tackle for the whole week and really just kind of started to get it going.”
Daley was a real pleasant surprise during training camp and the preseason. He showed position flexibility and strong retention.
Rivera entered last Sunday’s game admitting he wasn’t sure where Daley was best at – tackle for guard.
Well, he certainly passed his first test as an NFL left tackle.
“I was pretty excited for him,” Rivera said. “He is a young man who has worked very well, has really done a lot of good things. We felt pretty comfortable with him in there. There are some things we will take a look at and get those things corrected, but I think Dennis has a bright future in this league.”
View all of the best photos from Carolina's win over the Jaguars.