Panthers’ Bryce Young made his ‘stamp on locker room’ during OTAs – ESPN – Carolina Panthers Blog

CHARLOTTE, NC – Carolina Panthers players knew management was taking a quarterback with the top pick in April’s NFL draft, but until commissioner Roger Goodell called out the name of Alabama’s Bryce Young, they weren’t sure which one.

The subsequent group text among the players expressed overwhelming approval.

Nothing that happened during offseason workouts, which ended Wednesday, changed that.

“We knew we were going to get a dawg,” cornerback Donte Jackson said as the Panthers wrapped up a two-day mandatory minicamp. “We’re definitely happy with the dawg we got. He’s different.”

From leadership to respect for teammates to taking command of the offense to understanding protections to accuracy to pocket awareness, Young has checked a lot of boxes the last two months.

The former Crimson Tide star has already moved past veteran Andy Dalton to the top spot on the depth chart, where he will be when training camp opens in late July. There’s no reason to believe he won’t be the starter in Week 1 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Young still has to prove himself in pads against a real pass rush and a defense that schemes against him, but as the Panthers enter vacation mode for five weeks, there isn’t much doubt that the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner was right choices.

Young is determined to get even better when the rookies report to Wofford College on July 26. It’s called accountability, the core of his leadership.

“It’s great to be in a locker room where we hold ourselves accountable first and foremost,” he said. “We look in the mirror first. Because of that, if we all have that mentality, we can lean on each other to pick each other up.”

Let’s take a closer look at some of the key boxes Young has checked:

Leadership and respect

Wide receiver DJ Chark noted during the voluntary portion of OTAs that Young had earned the respect of the entire locker room.

“Everybody’s here for him,” he said. “And we believe he can take us to some really high places.”

Edge rushes Brian Burns ditto.

“It’s hard not to like that kid,” he said. “He’s made a big mark in the locker room. He walks around with that kind of — excuse my language — ‘humble, but I know I’m s—‘ kind of swag. You know? He’s got it, but he’s humble about it.”

Command of the offense

Admittedly, Young hasn’t spent much time getting to know Charlotte’s restaurant and social scene. He has spent most of his time buried in the playbook, “just [getting] ready for the next day.”

Because of that, his command of the offense was evident on the first day of offseason practice in the way he took charge of the huddle, made every throw and did it in a cool way that made everything look easy.

“He did everything right, the little drafts in the flats, the little bubble screen things that people knock over,” coach Frank Reich said that day. “He threw with accuracy, saw it well, knew where guys were going to be.”

Young finished camp that way, throwing two red zone touchdown passes through a super tight window to wide receiver Adam Thielen.

Pocket awareness and protection

This especially caught the attention of the 32-year-old Thielen as he enters his 10th NFL season.

“There’s so much talk about him, so there’s not a whole lot of surprise,” Thielen said. “For me, it’s probably been his movement in the pocket, his ability to get the ball out on time, but do it in a way that’s not just sitting in a stationary spot.

“Sometimes this time of year it can be easy when you’re not getting hit, no pads on … just sitting there, and no fear, and just throwing it around. But you can tell he’s practicing as a game … It’s been really impressive.”

Accuracy and throw off the chart

One of the best examples happened last week during a 7-on-7 drill when Young found Chark deep on a trip.

“I really wasn’t the main read,” Chark said. “But I guess Bryce wanted to take that shot, so he threw it … That’s the type of thing we’ve got to continue to do going forward … get a big play that way, it’s not going to plan, in itself.”

Young said the coverage took him to Chark, but it was the kind of play the Panthers haven’t had much of the past few years — the kind that caught the attention of former Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. during Young’s pro day.

Young got to know the Hall of Fame candidate well in the offseason when Smith stopped by to watch practice. Young soaked up every word from the player he calls “a legend,” another move on goal.

“Every opportunity I get to pick his brain, hear his opinion on things, tell me how he feels, whether it’s stuff that’s about me and super applicable or just other stuff,” Young said.

Too short?

The only notable concern for Young before the draft was his size (5-foot-10, 204 pounds). Can he make throws over big NFL defensive lines? Can he take the pounding?

While some of those questions won’t be answered until he’s in a game, his size wasn’t mentioned in interviews until he had a rare pass knocked down at the line in Tuesday’s practice and again Wednesday.

But Reich felt it was no big deal.

“I actually thought we’d see quite a few more balls down since we’re not going live and we’re telling them not to hit the quarterback,” Reich said. “I didn’t think much of it.”

Nor did Young after a few moments of self-evaluation, a part of his DNA that teammates believe will be contagious.

“We all support him, we’re all behind him,” Jackson said. “He’s been overwhelmed with people in his face for a long time. We’re just rolling with him now.”

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