It wasn’t a flawless start to the new era of Panthers football, as they suffered a 24-10 week one loss to the Falcons. There were some positive moments that fans can hold on to, but also a plethora of concerning ones. It’s never an easy process when it comes to turning around a franchise, but it would be disappointing to lose touch in a wide-open NFC South. With that in mind, here are the biggest takeaways from the first week of action, as Carolina looks to get back on track in the division.
Offensive Line Struggles Continue
The biggest worry after the three preseason games for the Panthers was the offensive line. Oftentimes preseason woes don’t carry over, but it looks like the line will be a prominent issue in Carolina. Bryce Young was hit a total of eight times in his debut, and sacked twice. Even beyond the hits, he was frequently forced to get the ball out quickly.
Now with Brady Christensen joining Austin Corbett on the injured reserve, the concerns are only growing. Not only is it hard to come by wins when your quarterback doesn’t have time to throw, but it’s hard to keep him healthy. It’s crucial that the line’s play steps up should the Panthers still hope to win the division this year.
Learning Curve for Young
The poise of Young has been so heavily publicized that it can be easy to forget he’s a rookie. No matter how well he performed at Alabama, and how talented he may be, it’s unfair to expect a lack of rookie mistakes. Young had his fair share of those in his first NFL game, especially on two similarly ill-advised passes that were both intercepted by Jessie Bates III. Bates III made an impressive read on both plays, jumping out of his safety spot to cut off Young’s throw and force a turnover.
Young ended the day at 20/38, for 146 yards, one touchdown, and the two aforementioned interceptions. He looked as calm as advertised for most of the game, hitting his marks on a good number of throws. He wasn’t really asked to do anything spectacular though, as most of his targets were relatively close to the line of scrimmage. We’ll see how this changes as he grows accustomed to NFL play.
Burns Needs to be Paid
As most fans have been calling for over the past few weeks, it became even more evident on Sunday that Brian Burns deserves a new contract. The Pro Bowl edge rusher recorded seven tackles and two sacks in Atlanta, picking up right where he left off last season.
The Panthers front office hasn’t been in a rush to re-sign their best player, concerning a great number of fans. Some believed Burns wouldn’t play without a new deal, but instead he proved just why he deserves one. After refusing to trade him to the Rams for multiple first-round picks last year, singing Burns to a new contract seems like a no-brainer. In the meantime, fans will continue to worry, but also enjoy his efforts to prove the money is well-deserved.
Horn Injured Again
In another case of the story that has become all too familiar for Panthers fans, Jaycee Horn suffered an injury in the team’s season-opener. Horn injured his hamstring in the first half of the game, leaving a void at the cornerback position. He was initially listed as “doubtful” to return, but never saw the field again in Sunday’s game. It looks like Horn won’t see the field for a while, as head coach Frank Reich called it a “freak” injury, which could require surgery.
Despite showcasing elite talent when on the field, it’s been a tough road since the 2021 draft for Horn. He missed all but three games of his rookie season with a foot injury, and missed another four last season due to wrist and rib issues. He even missed a chunk of the offseason program with new foot and ankle injuries. Horn is a difference-maker when on the field, but it’s starting to become a question of whether or not he’s capable of consistently being there.
Hurst Plays Pivotal Role
One of the bright spots of the season-opener was new Panthers tight end Hayden Hurst. The former-Falcon had an impressive game against his old team, hauling in five catches for 41 yards and a touchdown. He currently has the only touchdown of Carolina’s season, and was targeted on seven of Young’s 38 throws.
The tight end position has been unstable ever since the departure of Greg Olsen, so a consistent option would be a wonderful change for the team. He was the most reliable veteran option in the game with Chark and Thielen’s injuries, and proved why he was sought after in free agency. It’s still hard to gauge what his role will be after just one game, but it’s a positive note on a bleak stat sheet for Carolina.
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Featured image courtesy of the Carolina Panthers.
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