CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers have elevated rookie Bryce Young to the No. 1 quarterback spot, a move coach Frank Reich said Thursday is “the next step” in the top pick of this year’s draft becoming the Week 1 starter.
While Young, as planned, had gotten more reps than veteran Andy Dalton with the first team during the first two weeks of voluntary offseason workouts, Dalton was listed as the starter and began each drill with the first unit.
That changed this week as the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner continued to show he had earned the respect of teammates and performed at a level worthy of getting first-team reps.
“It’s just the next step,” Reich said. “We had a couple of weeks to watch Andy. Andy has continued to perform at a very high level. We’re just trying to get our team ready. Everything is about what’s best for our team, and so this was just the next step.”
Reich said that 5-foot-10, 204-pound Young will continue to get the first-team reps during next week’s three-day mandatory camp and that Dalton will continue to work with the second team.
He noted this was the timeline he and general manager Scott Fitterer mapped out for the move after making Young the top pick.
Wide receiver DJ Chark, who was on the receiving end of one of Young’s patented deep passes Thursday, said Young has been “fantastic” and has earned the respect of “everyone in the locker room.”
“Everybody is here for him,” Chark said. “And we believe he can take us to some really high places.”
Chark said the way the organization has surrounded Young with a veteran offensive line, brought in proven offensive weapons such as himself and put him with a veteran coaching staff has made this “a match made in heaven for [Young].”
Young said being elevated to No. 1 won’t change his approach, which has been to go out each day and get better and earn the respect of teammates.
“For me, it’s about earning it,” Young said. “I’m grateful to have the opportunity that I have. I still think it’s a process. I’m grateful to be accepted by the team. It’s an amazing locker room, a great group of guys. I want to continue with that.
“It’s not something you’re just entitled to.”
Reich didn’t tell Young about the move to No. 1 until the end of last week when they began discussing this week’s plan.
“We could have shifted it, we could have moved it up,” he said of the timeline. “I really didn’t want to move it up because I thought things were going the way we wanted.
“At the end of last week, I pulled Bryce aside and Andy and just said, ‘Hey, we talked about this from the beginning. You guys are doing it exactly like we wanted. We’re gonna make this switch and move forward.'”
And while the plan is to have Young ready to be the Week 1 starter at Atlanta, Reich isn’t ready to make that official until after he has seen Young perform in pads during training camp.
“He’s showing everything you want to see,” Reich said. “But this goes back to even the draft decision. We don’t have to make a decision until you have to make it.
“So, we’ll just keep giving him, and our team, the opportunity to get better and to earn that starting role. So far, he and a lot of guys have taken the step needed to earn that spot.”