Carolina Panthers

Rookie Austin Duke working toward redemption after tough opener

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Austin Duke (16), a former Independence High and Charlotte 49ers star, ended up the top-targeted receiver by the end of Saturday’s 34-27 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Austin Duke (16), a former Independence High and Charlotte 49ers star, ended up the top-targeted receiver by the end of Saturday’s 34-27 loss to the Tennessee Titans. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Last week was a tough one for Carolina Panthers undrafted rookie receiver Austin Duke.

The local product had two big opportunities in Carolina’s preseason opener against Houston.

On Duke’s first NFL reception, the pass to him from fourth-string quarterback Garrett Gilbert was ruled incomplete after a review called back an original fumble recovery-to-touchdown. Duke got another wide-open shot on the next play, but dropped the third-down pass.

Saturday in Nashville, his number was called again – and earlier than he expected after receiver Brenton Bersin went down with a shoulder injury.

Duke ended up the top-targeted receiver by the end of the 34-27 loss, with three catches on six targets for 41 yards, the longest of which was 21 yards.

Notably, he looked a lot less jittery than he did a week ago, too.

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera talks about what he saw in the preseason loss against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017. He also addressed Cam Newton's recovery.

“We always want to bypass the process and get straight to the product, but it’s just a part of the process,” he said after the game. “I come out here every day and I put my heart and soul into it. I’ve been working with the quarterbacks, working with the coaches.

“It was a great lesson, the couple of plays that I left out there.”

Duke added that he’s trying to be a little more even-keeled, mentally.

“Adversity is going to happen to everybody,” he said. “I’ve been there before. I’ve dropped the ball before, I’ve done that before. Just have to know how to erase it from your head and keep going.”

Carolina Panthers rookie running back Christian McCaffrey describes his first NFL touchdown, a 17-yard run against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2017.

Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071, @jourdanrodrigue

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