On the Fringes: Panthers OL Dennis Daley facing a critical camp

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Dennis Daley
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Dennis Daley /

This year’s training camp promises to be an important one for Dennis Daley and his future with the Carolina Panthers in 2021 and beyond.

Dennis Daley has been something of an enigma throughout his time with the Carolina Panthers so far. The versatile offensive lineman had a big opportunity awaiting him in 2020 and was projected to start by some, only for the player to become a relative afterthought extremely quickly.

Daley was unable to take the field early in the season due to injury. This prevented him from participating in the campaign until Week 7 and there were further complications for the former sixth-round pick to deal with after Carolina’s Week 11 outing against the Detroit Lions.

This inevitably saw Daley placed on the reserve/injured list prior to the Panthers locking horns with the Washington Football Team in their penultimate game of the season.

Simply put, the campaign was a disaster for Daley and something that set him back considerably.

What comes next for the player is unclear. The Panthers brought in some substantial reinforcements to their offensive line both in free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft, so Daley has some work to do in pursuit of finding a way into the coaches’ plans.

Carolina Panthers still don’t know what they have in Dennis Daley.

Staying healthy will be the first part.

But there is so much more for Daley to accomplish in the coming weeks.

Catching the eye during team drills at Wofford College in Spartanburg is absolutely essential. There will be a lot of new toys for Matt Rhule to examine, so even though the head coach doesn’t quite know what he has in Daley yet, the South Carolina product still needs to leave his mark.

Daley has experience operating as a guard or protecting the edge. Something the Panthers absolutely love judging by their recruitment since Rhule’s appointment.

He was thrown to the wolves as a rookie, giving up eight sacks and conceding four penalties when Daley clearly wasn’t ready to see the field.

Although he appeared in just 135 snaps last time out, it might be a little too soon to give up on Daley just yet.

The third year is when we expect to see some real growth from players. Daley is in the same category as Greg Little in this regard and if he can raise his game accordingly, it’ll be like a new signing for the Panthers and something that can boost an area of the field that does have more than a few concerns.

It’s still hard to gauge exactly what the Panthers possess in Daley. He is a physical specimen who doesn’t have much solid production to match, so getting a really good look at him during the preseason will be a bonus for the organization as they look to make a formal decision on their 53-man roster.

Daley should make the roster. Carolina isn’t blessed with great depth and it’s going to take the likes of Deonte Brown, Brady Christensen, and perhaps David Moore time to make the adjustments needed to forge successful careers in the NFL.

However, this is no guarantee.

All Daley can do is apply himself, go about his business in convincing fashion, and take every preseason rep by the scruff of the neck to leave the coaching staff with no option other than to give him substantial playing time when it matters most.

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Any slight sign of regression from Daley’s perspective will be costly and could see him looking for a new home.