Another (NFL preseason) game and another evening of Panthers fans seeing less than they wanted from Bryce Young. It is becoming beyond clear that Frank Reich has no intentions of showing the rest of the league what he has in Young. Whether that is hiding severe limitations or disguising brilliance, the curtain won’t be pulled back for another few of weeks. That is, we won’t see much more until the Carolina Panthers kick off the regular season against the Atlanta Falcons in 23 days.
We’ll talk more about Young in a moment, but first let’s start with a few quick observations on the rest of the team:
Linebackers are not going to be this team’s problem.
Frankie Luvu, Kamu Grugier-Hill, and Yetur Gross-Matos were everywhere in the first quarter and Deion Jones brought strong pressure from his inside linebacker position when asked. Amare Barno is threatening to become a heck of a role player. The linebackers are full of promise.
Yes, misdirection looks troubled the team greatly on the New York Giants’ opening drive, but that was with starting outside linebackers Brian Burns and Justin Houston not playing tonight. The team also cleaned up some of those mistakes as the game wore on.
Strong play by the front seven (again missing Burns, Houston, and Derrick Brown), also let the defensive backfield to clean up plays with enthusiasm. Vonn Bell and Jeremy Chinn both stood out in limited action. I expect to hear their names a lot through the regular season.
Some of that strong play from the front seven came from Raequan Williams, a defensive lineman listed as third string on the team’s official depth chart who was playing in Brown’s place tonight. More than anybody tonight, Williams may have played himself into the discussion for a roster spot.
Dexter Lawrence is a problem
The New York Jets and the Giants have two of the best defensive lines in football. Fortunately, the Panthers don’t have to play them every week. This was another rough night for the Panthers offensive line, even if it was no where near as embarrassing as last week.
Bradley Bozeman would have had his hands full with Lawrence with an extra pair of hands to spare. As it was, Bozeman was clearly overmatched when facing Lawrence alone. Or with help.
Ickey Ekwonu also struggled throughout his playing time, making this his second week in a row to show up poorly. Whoever payed him to make sure Young could take NFL level hits needs to find a new hobby.
The good news is that rookie Chandler Zavala looked miles better than Michael Jordan last week at right guard and may provide a serviceable bridge to the return of Austin Corbett. He wasn’t great, mind you, but he wasn’t often the problem when facing non-Lawrence linemen.
It’s the age old chicken-or-the-egg question. Is Matt Corral not very good or is he suffering from playing with a preseason roster of players?
The answer likely lies somewhere in the middle. Despite heating up in the second half and leading Carolina’s first touchdown drive of the preseason, he hardly impressed. It is likely that Corral’s time with the Panthers is going to end with the end of this preseason.
The former regime traded up to select this guy over Sam Howell in the 2022 NFL Draft. Corral is likely looking for work in a week, while Howell was just named the starting quarterback for the Washington Commanders. If poor depth, built on poor drafting, costs this team games in 2023 then let’s be careful of how we blame the new coaching staff.
The second half efforts of Shi Smith and Raheem Blackshear were noteworthy. Both guys not only stepped up their level of preseason play, but also promised improvement from what we saw in the regular season in 2022. Both guys made strong cases for roles, not just roster spots, entering the 2023 regular season.
And back to Young
The commitment to the Chuba Hubbard running game in the absence of Miles Sanders is telling. Reich has no intention of showing more from Young than he has to. What we did see was another clean, mistake-free couple of plays.
Young was never asked to make a play, but at least he also never made a play worse. The closest thing to a highlight was him falling to the turf under pressure, getting back up, and scrambling into a position to attempt a low-percentage, but safely placed deep pass attempt to DJ Chark. The incompletion was irrelevant as the play—and pressure—began with an offsides penalty by the Giants.
The worst thing Young did was throw a ball that may have been slightly ahead of fellow rookie Jonathan Mingo. It wasn’t a bad throw, and Mingo may have pulled up on the route. It’s the kind of play that happens to every quarterback, multiple times a game. It’s just also the worst thing we can say about Young’s play.
Clearly, Reich is not prioritizing the emotional well being of the Panthers fan base or the readability of this column. It is what it is. It’s not like I can, in good conscience, make any hay about the Panthers’ first preseason touchdown pass coming off the arm of Jake Luton and not Young.
Expect less, if anything, from Young next Friday versus the Detroit Lions. The suspense will simply have to build until the team kicks off the regular season on September 10th.