In his first-ever NFL regular-season game, Ryan Delaire recorded two sacks against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and it looked like the Carolina Panthers had found another diamond in the rough.
Then Delaire only got a half-sack in the following eight games.
“Honestly I felt very positive about everything I was doing,” Delaire said. “I just realized really quickly that everybody else watches film, too. “I realized that you can’t just rely on the same thing all the time because eventually someone will catch up on what you’re doing and watch the film and key everything you’re doing.”
It’s not tough to spot what Delaire is good at. Weighing in at 265 pounds at 6-foot-4, Delaire is a great speed rusher. But last year, that was it.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Undrafted out of Towson in 2015, Delaire only had coaching on Tampa Bay and Washington’s practice squads.
That’s why if anyone should have known what Delaire was good at, it should have been the Buccaneers.
Nevertheless, Delaire figured out speed alone wasn’t going to cut it.
“I learned a lot from my coach, (Eric) Washington, that you have to bring a different arsenal to the game because when you pass rush against a more veteran offensive tackle, they’re not going to let that happen all the time,” Delaire said Monday at Panthers training camp.
Stunting Delaire’s development last season was a shoulder injury suffered just days after his coming-out party in Tampa Bay. Working as a scout-team defensive end in preparation for the Seattle game, Delaire rushed one of Carolina’s offensive tackles in practice and tore his labrum.
Delaire said everyone in the league is dealing with some type of ailment, and he wasn’t going to let it hold him back. It hurt, he admits now, but he didn’t miss any practice time and never appeared on Carolina’s injury report.
“It definitely was hard to hold my ground and stay stout against the run,” Delaire said. “There were definitely some times where it popped out during the game and I just had to suck it up.”
After his offseason surgery – he and defensive end Mario Addison had similar surgeries on the same day and even lived together for four days afterward – Delaire worked on getting his strength back.
Not only that, but he wanted to be able to use his strength in his pass rush. Adding that to his game will make Delaire’s speed rush even better.
In this training camp he’s been firmly on the second-team defense behind Charles Johnson and Kony Ealy. Earlier in camp when both starters were out, Delaire and Wes Horton got all the first-team repetitions.
In a seemingly comfortable spot on Carolina’s roster, Delaire still doesn’t feel at ease entering his second year.
“From my perspective I’m not ever the type to feel that I arrived or I belong here,” Deliare said. “At the end of the day I feel like I have to earn everything I get. So as far as being comfortable anywhere, I feel like I always have to make a mark.
“At the end of the day I still have to prove a point.”