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Panthers still on target to start two rookie cornerbacks in opener

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers rookie cornerback Daryl Worley was an easy target during and immediately following Saturday’s exhibition win at Tennessee.

After all, he gave up five catches to Titans wide receiver Tajae Sharpe for 62 yards.

But Carolina coach Ron Rivera didn’t sound very concerned, and with good reason. Despite giving up too much cushion, Worley quickly made the tackle after each of Sharpe’s catches and didn’t surrender a huge play.

That this was only his second NFL game and the first against a hurry-up offense, Worley’s performance doesn’t appear anything to panic about.

“I’d like to see him, obviously based on what the call is, to play the techniques a little bit better,’’ Rivera said. “He had an opportunity to make a couple of plays, and he didn’t. One time we felt he could have been tighter in his coverage and another time he was off and we should have had a guy underneath him.

“Again, it’s one of those learning curves that he will go through as a rookie.’’

In other words, the Panthers remain on target to start rookie corners -- Worley and James Bradberry -- in the September 8 opener at Denver.

Bradberry, a second-round pick out of Samford, appears to be the real deal. He hasn’t given up a big pass in the first two games and has looked good in run support.

The way he wrestled DeMarco Murray out of bounds for no gain in the first half was impressive after it initially appeared that the Titans running back had the edge.

Worley hasn’t been as impressive, but he hasn’t made any big mistakes. And having the third-round pick out of West Virginia on the outside allows Carolina to keep Bene’ Benwikere inside at nickel.

Benwikere showed his value there with an interception and a sack against the Titans.

And he seems to have gotten past the rustiness since coming back from a fractured ankle he suffered last December.

“He is beginning to communicate well, and as he continues to get stronger and stronger, with more and more confidence, we will see him very active around the football,’’ Rivera said. “Reading the quarterback’s eyes, understanding where the route is coming to and beating guys to the ball, that’s a veteran move.

“That’s what he did, what we saw coming out of college and we have seen him do that for us the last couple of years.’’

Carolina’s first-team defense, in general, has looked strong. Tennessee had 49 yards and no points in two series with all the starters in. The first ended with Benwikere’s interception and the second was a three-and-out.

Baltimore gained seven yards on three plays in the only series all the Carolina starters played in the preseason opener.

Murray was impressed.

“They are a good team,’’ he said. “They are a physical team and that’s why they were in the Super Bowl last year, and I’m sure they are trying to get back there this year.’’