3 second-year Carolina Panthers players who could break out in 2024

These second-year players could shine in 2024.
Bryce Young
Bryce Young / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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First dates are exhilarating. It’s something new, there’s a level of mutual attraction because you’ve agreed to take the jaunt together. Simply thinking about the rendezvous is essentially like watching a marathon of rom-com movies to visualize the vast array of possible outcomes.

Perhaps it’ll be swirling with chemistry and eventually reach the ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love.’ crescendo of a ‘Dirty Dancing' inspired lift move in a luxuriously appointed home. Or it could be physically painful and uncomfortable, a la Reuben Feffer’s bout with I.B.S. in ‘Along Came Polly’. That poor, poor bathroom.

And then there’s Peter Bretter and Rachel Jansen’s first date in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall’. It was debated within the film if it even qualified as a date, but whatever the designation - it was a lot. After tussling with a former flame at a beach shindig, and a live performance of an original song from a Dracula musical at a dive bar, it came to a disappointing and awkward handshake-in-a-hooptie conclusion.

The tryst didn’t go how you’d dream it up. But there were flashes of connection and reason to believe something was there worth exploring. That is the scenic route to the point of this article.

I want to highlight a few Carolina Panthers players entering their second season - second date, if you will - who may be in a position to find more success than they enjoyed in their initial foray.  Let’s get to it.

Bryce Young - Carolina Panthers QB

Bryce Young was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, cost additional capital plus the team's WR1, and came into his rookie season with lofty expectations. It didn’t go well.

I’m aware that many folks, even in the Carolina fanbase, are ready to move on from him after just one season regardless of the context around the ordeal. The Alabama product provided examples of his accuracy, creative playmaking, and anticipation that made him a highly touted prospect. He also demonstrated that he wasn’t immune to mistakes and poor play, either. But it’s important to also examine what the new front office has done to improve the lay of the land leading into his sophomore season.

Start with the hiring of head coach Dave Canales and the staff that he brought with him. Russell Wilson, Geno Smith, and Baker Mayfield reached new heights under his tutelage.

After assuming the roles of quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks in 2018, Wilson enjoyed the best three-year stretch of his career, including best marks in completion percentage and touchdown passes in 2020, plus his second-best QBR (71.5) and career-low interceptions (5) in 2019.

Smith had become a backup in most pundits’ eyes after his tumultuous seasons with the New York Jets to begin his career. Canales saw something in the former second-round pick that he believed he could work with. During their one season working together in 2022, the veteran set personal bests in passing yards, passing scores, completion percentage, and QBR by a long shot.

Mayfield was able to put together respectable seasons with the Cleveland Browns. Maybe he didn’t quite live up to the No. 1 overall pick billing, but he wasn’t awful. Then he got a revival opportunity when he was traded to the Carolina Panthers in 2022.

The former Oklahoma phenom amassed a 1-5 record and was eventually granted his release. With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and in Canales' first season as an offensive coordinator, Mayfield hit career marks in passing yards, passing touchdowns, and completion percentage.

Canales made it public knowledge that he and his staff, including passing game coordinator Nate Carroll, are working intently to keep Young’s throwing time in the ballpark of 2.7 seconds for most passing concepts in their offensive scheme. They’re also retooling the former Heisman trophy-winner’s footwork, stressing it as the foundation of success for the position. Both areas were causes for concern in 2023.

Renovations to the stadium weren’t the only significant upgrades this offseason. New general manager Dan Morgan brought in several pieces on offense that should assist Young's potential bounce-back. If this offensive unit can mesh, stay healthy, and execute a competent and properly built scheme that's communicated by less than nine voices at a time, there’s plenty of reason to envision the second-year signal caller making a substantial leap.