CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bryce Young‘s first practice for the Carolina Panthers reinforced everything the organization witnessed and heard during the draft process to make it comfortable taking the undersized quarterback from Alabama with the top pick.
“He did everything right, the little throws out in the flat, the little bubble screen stuff that people overthrow — he threw with accuracy, saw it well, knew where guys were supposed to be,” first-year Carolina coach Frank Reich said Friday after the first of a three-day rookie camp.
“He just showed complete command.”
Young also set the tone, arriving at practice an hour before it was scheduled to begin.
“This is a huge day for me,” Young said. “This is my first day of practice, so of course I wanted to set a tone. … We all want the best first impression that we can [make].”
Perhaps the biggest surprise of Young’s NFL practice debut was that afterward nobody asked about his size (5-foot-10, 204 pounds), something that was a constant theme during his pre-draft and even initial post-draft interviews.
While he was facing mostly undrafted and tryout players Friday, Young showed the footwork, decision-making and processing that made his size a nonfactor the past two seasons at Alabama.
“Bryce did not only a good job with himself, but really commanding the huddle, keeping everybody loose, keeping everybody dialed into what we were doing,” Reich said.
Second-round pick Jonathan Mingo, a wide receiver out of Ole Miss, made it clear Young was in control from the get-go.
“Just knowing the ins and outs of the offense, knowing where everybody is supposed to be, knowing the whole playbook, just having great footwork, knowing his reads,” he said. “You could tell he knew what he was doing. He’s just a great leader by the way he carries himself on and off the field.”
The goal for Young this weekend is to focus on communication, snap counts, pre-snap decisions, getting in and out of the huddle and grasping a concept of the offense that Reich and offensive coordinator Thomas Brown put together.
They want the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner ready to blend in smoothly with the entire roster in the next couple of weeks.
Young checked every box on Friday.
“Bryce made a great impression,” Reich said. “Mentally and physically, he looked the part in every way. … We have the sense he’s willing to do whatever it takes.”
The ultimate goal is to have Young ready to be the starter when the Panthers open the season on Sept. 10 against the Atlanta Falcons. For now he’s listed as the backup to veteran Andy Dalton with no timetable for being elevated to No. 1.
Young isn’t in a hurry to do anything but learn and help an organization that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2017 turn things around.
But there were moments Friday when Young showed why he is expected to be the starter. One happened late when he sidestepped the pressure moving to his right, located former West Virginia receiver Gary Jennings moving from his left to his right and completed the pass into a tight window where only Jennings could have made the catch.
Young didn’t look at the throw as anything but doing his job.
“What was signature for me is whatever the coaches draw up,” he said. “It’s that learning process of feeling out how tight routs are supposed to be, how things are supposed to be read.”
Such comments supported Reich’s decision to draft Young No. 1 as much as his play.
“It goes without saying we love guys who love the process, who love the grind, who love the game, who love everything about it,” Reich said. “Bryce has demonstrated that his whole life — everywhere you go, he’s been the same way.
“This isn’t new for him. He’s just doing what he’s done his whole life.”