Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera has been around the NFL long enough to know that, when a team has rookies on the field, the opponent will go after those rookies.
It’s a tried-and-true method, and in Thursday night’s season opener the Denver Broncos may very well go after rookie cornerbacks James Bradberry and Daryl Worley.
Rivera is not yet ready to name those two the starters – Bradberry is almost certainly a starter, though Rivera left the door open for Robert McClain or Bené Benwikere after last week’s exhibition. But they’ve gotten the majority of first-team reps this preseason and are the odds-on favorites to start Thursday.
“I imagine that they (Denver’s receivers) have looked at all the tape at our guys and see what they do better and what their tendencies are,” Rivera said Monday. “They’ll try to have a plan for that. I would anticipate that they would attack them. If you have young guys out there, people are going to attack them. That just makes sense.”
The Panthers’ coaches are in the process of determining starters and the 46 active players on the 53-man roster. But Rivera indicated there won’t be a rotation at cornerback.
The starters will play so long as their play doesn’t force them to the sideline.
Denver coach Gary Kubiak, himself entering the game with an unproven quarterback in Trevor Siemian, didn’t take the bait this week on a question about the rookie duo.
“They’ve had some changes back there but they’ve got one of, if not the best front in football, the top front in football,” Kubiak said. “And when you play as well as they do upfront and it makes it so difficult on you – if you can’t handle the front or can’t block the front and do those types of things, that’s the most important thing.
“Our challenge is to start upfront with their front seven. It’s as good as I’ve ever competed against as an offensive coach.”