The Carolina Panthers have wasted no time moving their first overall pick from this year’s NFL Draft, quarterback Bryce Young, up the depth chart.
Young has been elevated to starting quarterback, which new Panthers head coach Frank Reich said Thursday during practice.
“It’s just the next step,” Reich said via ESPN. “We had a couple of weeks to watch Andy [Dalton]. 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.”
Dalton, who signed as Young’s expected veteran backup, had been taking the first-team reps to start practices for the last two weeks. However, Young was getting more time with the first team anyway – an expected move.
Now, Young began this week with the first team and Reich thought it was the right time for the Alabama product and Heisman Trophy winner to take that next step in his development.
So, for the Panthers’ mandatory three-day minicamp next week, Young will be featured solely with the first team while Dalton will handle second-team duties.
For Young, the designation as top dog at quarterback doesn’t change his mindset.
“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.”
Young’s 5-foot-10-inch, 204-pound frame has sparked some questions from those outside the team as to whether he can make the impact that the Panthers need from him right away. But wide receiver D.J. Chark, who joins the Panthers this season, likes what he’s seeing from his new signal-caller.
“Everybody is here for him,” Chark told ESPN. “And we believe he can take us to some really high places.”
But while Reich and the Panthers love what they’re seeing so far from Young, naming him as the Week 1 starter at this point in the year won’t be coming.
“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.”
With the Panthers trading up with the Chicago Bears to obtain the first overall draft pick in April, Carolina is certainly grooming Young to be under center for Week 1 whether they want to make it official or not.