CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)The Carolina Panthers have begun simplifying their offense for Bryce Young, honing in on the plays the rookie quarterback feels most comfortable with while also streamlining the play-calling process.
The No. 1 overall draft pick is off to a rough start with the Panthers (0-5), the NFL’s only winless team entering Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins.
Young, who has started four of the team’s five games, ranks 25th in the league in QB rating (82.1). He has thrown five touchdown passes and has turned the ball over six times.
“Every coach would tell you when you’re 0-5, what’s the answer? Do more? No, it’s do less,” coach Frank Reich said Wednesday.
Reich isn’t sure if the Panthers put too much on the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner’s plate to begin the season, but added that continuing to do things the same way would be “the definition of insanity.”
“Does that mean we gave him too much – maybe, maybe not. I don’t know the answer to that,” Reich said. “I just know we have to get better. … It’s not just for the quarterback but the whole team. We did it on offense, defense and special teams – simplify, simplify, simplify. Do the basics, and let the players play fast.”
The process began this past week against the Detroit Lions – but with limited success.
Young threw two interceptions and running back Miles Sanders fumbled in the first half, leading to three Lions touchdowns. The Panthers trailed by 18 points at halftime and lost 42-24.
The goal is to get Young comfortable under center and allow him to begin to use his instincts more and think less.
Young said he’s all for it, adding that he has full confidence in the coaching staff.
“For us it’s an opportunity to hone in on details and focus on execution,” Young said.
Backup quarterback Andy Dalton said he believes the term “simplifying” isn’t a fair description of what the team is doing, saying it implies Young isn’t picking up on things. Dalton said nothing could be further from the truth.
The 13-year veteran said he’s been impressed with Young’s knowledge of the playbook.
“I don’t want anybody to think that he’s not able to handle this,” Dalton said. “That’s not it at all. We’ve been at this thing for five weeks and what we’re trying to find out now is who we are and what works. You may think you’re going to be one way when you start the season, but as it goes on you evolve and adapt. And I think that is where we are right now.”
Added Dalton: “It’s about finding out what he is comfortable with and having different ways of doing that.”
Dalton said he thinks the process of honing the playbook to take advantage of Young’s skillset began to pay dividends in the second half against the Lions. Young threw for a career-high 247 yards and three touchdowns, two of which came in the second half.
“I think he was able to play fast and knew where he was going with the ball and we moved it really well,” Dalton said.
The Panthers are also streamlining the play-calling process for Young.
The rookie has worn a wristband on his left arm the past two games that includes a list of the team’s plays, a move that Reich said allows the Panthers to get in and out of the huddle quicker.
“If you do the pure math of it, it has to be faster,” Reich said. “If I don’t have to give the whole play call, if I can just say, ‘Hey, run number 37,’ there is something to that.”
The Panthers still had one delay of game penalty against the Lions, which Young said was his fault.
Reich hasn’t lost any faith in the Alabama product and still believes he’ll be a star.
“Every week we are getting better and honing in on what fits our players,” Reich said.
NOTES: Sanders (shoulder) did not practice on Wednesday. If he can’t play on Sunday, Chuba Hubbard would start. … CB Donte Jackson practiced in full on Wednesday after missing last week’s game with a shoulder injury. … The Panthers plan to reevaluate G Austin Corbett (knee) and CB Jaycee Horn (hamstring) after the bye next week, meaning neither are expected to play against the Dolphins. Both remain on injured reserve, but are eligible to return to the 53-man roster at any time.
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