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‘No plan to fix Bryce Young.’ Panthers coach Dave Canales has a different idea instead

Dave Canales has no plan to “fix” Bryce Young.

He has a different plan instead.

“No plan to fix Bryce Young,” the Carolina Panthers’ newly hired, energetic head coach told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday afternoon in the Indianapolis Convention Center. “For me, it’s about building an offense that we can be proud of. Something that is tough. Something that is smart.”

Canales added: “I have a specific plan. Can’t wait to put that into play. But again, we’re not talking about a guy who there’s a big fix for. You’re looking at an accurate player. A really smart player. He’s aware of what’s happening. We gotta build the whole thing around him, the whole offense around him, something to really say, ‘This is our identity.’”

Most of the fodder heading into Year 1 of the Canales regime in Carolina has centered around a singular question. What can he get out of Young?

The 42-year-old coach has a history of wringing out the potential of the offenses he commands — think of the cash-strapped Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2023 that won a playoff game — and seeing the quarterbacks captaining those offenses thrive as a result. Think Russell Wilson and Geno Smith, who worked closely with Canales in Seattle. Or Baker Mayfield, who threw for more than 4,000 yards in Tampa last season after throwing for 2,163 yards in the two seasons before that combined.

And that question — what can he get out of Young? — is what he is attacking head-on this offseason, the coach said. It doesn’t require improving the tools Young possesses, which were shown in flashes in his difficult rookie year that ended with his team limping to a 2-15 finish and with himself finishing with 2,877 yards, 11 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and 62 sacks.

It instead requires something else.

“I take it back to Brian Schottenheimer when he came to Seattle (as offensive coordinator in 2018),” Canales said. “He launched me on a project. He said one of the things he did for Andrew Luck, for Phillip Rivers, for Drew Brees is before he had a chance to meet with them, he had a detailed plan on how to improve the things necessary to play quarterback at a high level. ... And he challenged me. He said, ‘You will earn another level of respect with Russell (Wilson) by approaching it from a detailed standpoint.’ So we’re really working on that.

“I really respect Bryce and the road that has taken him here. And I want to be able to present something to him that’s tangible, that’s specific, and that says, ‘Hey, here are some things that we can really dive into and improve on, and here are things you’re doing great.’ So we’ll have a great plan when he comes back to us in a couple weeks.”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Bryce Young points skyward as he runs through the smoke onto the Bank of America Stadium field during player introductions on Friday, August 25, 2023.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Bryce Young points skyward as he runs through the smoke onto the Bank of America Stadium field during player introductions on Friday, August 25, 2023.

Canales wouldn’t go into specifics on what that plan entails. But he outlined a few general things that were evident to those who watched the NFC South. Among those things: He’d be “stubborn” about regularly running the ball. He’d be disciplined about getting rid of the ball quickly. And he will simplify the offense to the point where Young is comfortable — which is important considering the rumblings last season that Young was being overloaded with information too quickly.

“I don’t want to speak too much about the staff before (because) I wasn’t in those meetings, I don’t know what was being asked,” he said. “But as a starting point for us, it’s going to be finding the scope of the offense, finding the scope of each player and saying, ‘How much can we do?’ And then just trying to push the envelope. Let’s just do a little bit more. And see if we can kind of expand and grow that as the season goes along.”

Canales and Panthers ownership and the team’s general manager, Dan Morgan, have a consequential offseason ahead of them — from determining the futures of pass rusher Brian Burns and linebacker Frankie Luvu, to upgrading the offensive lines and receiving corps and more.

But so far, in his analysis, Canales has “a tough group” for an offense.

Including his quarterback.

Who, individually, doesn’t need fixing in order to repair the broken offense from a year before.

“What I’m learning about the group is, it’s a tough group,” Canales said. “And they wanna play the style of football that we want to play. It starts with the run game, and that kind of opens things up, you know? But I can’t stay enough about a group that stayed together, that played hard all the way through the last game.

“I can’t imagine the challenges they were faced, the 2-15 schedule, and the emotional challenges to show back up, and go right back to work. So I gotta give the guys a lot of credit in that regard.”

What else Dave Canales said

Canales and defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero could make “a dream team of sorts.” The new coach said that part of his pitch to have the job involved Evero, who admirably led a unit that finished fourth-best in total yards allowed and that wreaked havoc against Canales when the Bucs faced off with the Panthers. Morgan praised Evero, too, on Tuesday: “I don’t think it’ll be long before he’s a head coach.”

Canales views offensive lineman Ickey Ekwonu as a “mauler” in the run game. One of the key talking points of the offseason has been what to do with Ekwonu, the Charlotte native and 2022 first-round pick who struggled with the rest of the offense last season. Move him to guard? Keep him at left tackle (as Dan Morgan has said is the plan)? Canales’ response to all of that: “I’ll be a crazy stickler about (Young getting the ball out quickly). I’m selling to Ickey, I’m selling to (Taylor) Moton, I’m selling to these tackles: ‘Be aggressive, we’re going to get the ball out so you can just be sound in your technique. We don’t have to chase things.’ So we don’t hang them out to dry.”