Carolina Panthers' youth movement hangs precariously under Dave Canales

Many players have questions to answer in 2024.
Jonathan Mingo
Jonathan Mingo / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

If the Carolina Panthers want to make strides under yet another new regime, they need their young players to step up. Dan Morgan made a concerted effort to inject this underperforming roster with fresh energy throughout his first offseason as general manager. This was necessary and welcome in equal measure after years of languishing among the NFL's bottom feeders.

The Panthers are in a better place now compared to how things looked when the 2023 campaign concluded. Dave Canales likes his team's chances of being more competitive in 2024, even if this opinion isn't shared by most analysts. Carolina needs its youth movement to hit the ground running in pursuit of altering perceptions.

Morgan stated that the Panthers are planning with the long-term in mind. This offseason was just the first step. If the former linebacker was in damage limitation mode throughout the spring, there should be more freedom to be bolder in the coming years after Carolina worked tirelessly to stabilize its football operation behind the scenes.

Carolina Panthers need their young guns to improve in 2024

Aaron Schatz from ESPN believes all hope is not lost with the Panthers' players under 25 years old. However, the analyst acknowledged that there are some significant concerns to alleviate before confidence increases about the team's chances under Canales' expert guidance.

"So what do we do with young players who have terrible rookie seasons? There's still youth and potential here, but obviously things need to get better than they were in 2023. Young had one of the worst rookie quarterback seasons ever, throwing for 2,877 yards with 10 interceptions and a 33.4 QBR. Jonathan Mingo, 23, had the worst rookie wide receiver season ever by my DYAR metric. Things aren't much better for the veterans. Second-year left tackle Ekwonu was selected sixth overall in 2022 but was near the bottom of the league in pass block win rate (82.2%) a season ago. And 24-year-old cornerback Jaycee Horn plays well when healthy but can't stay on the field. The young talent in Carolina also includes this year's draft picks, such as 23-year-old wide receiver Xavier Legette and running back Jonathon Brooks, who turns 21 in mid-July."

Aaron Schatz, ESPN

It wasn't a great environment for any player to thrive last time around. The same could be said about the Panthers when Matt Rhule held absolute power. Carolina shifted course dramatically this offseason by hiring Canales. This stands to benefit everyone based on early impressions.

Bryce Young is under more pressure than most, but he isn't alone in that regard. Several high-end draft picks are embarking on crossroads campaigns. The talent is there, so their underachievement could be a coaching issue rather than a lack of NFL-caliber standards.

Canales and his accomplished team made their plan abundantly clear to everybody. They want the Panthers to be fundamentally sound. They want this team to be physical and competitive through enhanced schematics and improved cohesion. Players young and old will be placed in better positions to thrive within systems devised to suit their strengths.

This is arguably the biggest positive of all. If the Panthers' fledgling stars can progress and build confidence gradually, it won't be long before growth arrives.

How long that'll take is another matter.