Heading up Morehead to Bank of America Stadium, you would’ve thought the Carolina Panthers were playing a divisional game in November. Fans lined the street, bars were packed and everyone was decked out in their process blue best in anticipation of the first preseason game of the Frank Reich/Bryce Young era. It didn’t take long for the hype to temper for many as the Panthers struggled on offense and defense in a 27-0 loss to the New York Jets. And while some fans have already declare this season a wash, here are three reasons why it’s too early to hit the panic button.
Bryce Young Handled Himself Well
Bryce Young played three series in Saturday’s game – completing four of six passes for 21 yards. Although the numbers aren’t impressive, Young showed poise in the pocket – going through his progressions and avoiding making mistakes. He even took a couple of blows – popping right up after each one.
“Football is a physical sport,” Young said. “That is part of the job description, you are going to get hit. That is the game that we play. That is part of the job. You know that it is coming. That is not something I think of. You can’t let that affect your decision making or what you are going through. For me, that’s part of the game. It happens and I’m just focused on the next play and trying to make sure I execute every time I get a chance to out there.”
Bryce is a rookie and with that will come some challenges, but he showed nothing that would cause worry in his first action as a pro and that’s a good thing.
Generic Play Calling
The Panthers had 165 total yards to the Jets’ 333, converted just three of eleven third down attempts, turned the ball over twice and gave up three touchdowns and two field goals. It was hardly the performance they wanted after a good joint practice Wednesday.
After the loss, coach Reich acknowledged the team expected to play better, but pointed out that the play calling was very watered down. The last thing the Panthers coaching staff wants to do it show their hand. With two pivotal division games to open the season and no game tape available for opposing teams to use to strategize, Reich hopes the lack of film will be an advantage Carolina can put to good use.
“My philosophy has been in preseason, when you are a new coaching staff, I just don’t want to show too much,” Reich explained. “Some teams don’t know the things we are going to do and there is some of it I’m willing to take on the chin a little bit in preseason to hide some things we are going to do in the regular season.”
Offensive Line Accountability
Coming into training camp the offensive line, led by coach James Campen, was viewed at one of the bright spots. Returning the entire unit that made vast strides last season, would be a huge benefit to Bryce Young’s success. On the first pass attempt of his NFL career, Jets’ defensive lineman Solomon Thomas got past Panthers left tackle Ikem Ekwonu – delivering a huge hit on Young.
The Panthers offensive line gave up five sacks, eight quarterback hits and six tackles for a loss.
“Just disappointed. Not what we’re looking for at all,” Icky said via Panthers.com. “He shouldn’t be getting hit at all. That’s on us. We just weren’t good enough today.
“We didn’t play good enough,” lineman Bradley Bozeman said. “We’ve got a lot of things to fix and we’re going to fix it.”
Things were so bad that coach Campen called a meeting with the group right after the game.
“Camp called us in, and we just talked. We had to keep it real with each other; the s— wasn’t good enough,” veteran Cam Erving said. “Top to bottom, it doesn’t matter if it was preseason, regular season, or offseason. The s— was not good enough at any level, from any position, myself included, especially myself. All we can do is come back, try to regroup, and f—ing fix it.”
The offensive line’s performance was unacceptable, especially for a team that has a rookie quarterback and playoff hopes. But the fact that they took no time acknowledging and trying to fix the issues is reassuring.
The first game of the preseason is hardly enough to deem an upcoming season a success or failure. The reigning Super Bowl champions lost to the team that went on to have the worst record in the league last year in the first preseason game. There are no awards handed out for dominating these games, so take your hand away from the panic button and let things play out.