Bryce Young looks like the best overall pick in the Panthers’ first picks
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Bryce Young looks like the best overall pick in the Panthers’ first picks

Bryce Young’s first pass in the NFL preseason said a lot about who he would be as a quarterback.

Young took the snap shotgun in point blank formation. He quickly went through his advances. Although New York Jets defensive lineman Solomon Thomas was pressing him, Young calmly hit Adam Thielen for eight yards. He took a big hit from Thomas and appeared immediately. Then on the next play, he completed another pass to DJ Shark.

Young had a mostly nondescript season debut with the Carolina Panthers on a hot Saturday afternoon in Charlotte, a game the Jets won 27-0. The overall draft pick seemed a standby even though it was his first pick in an NFL game. Young’s maturity was one of the reasons he was a top draft pick, and why the Panthers wasted no time announcing that he was their starter. You can see it on Saturday.

He still allowed himself to enjoy the moment.

‘It was surreal’ Young said. “It was the first time you started as a quarterback in the NFL, and it’s still crazy to say that. There are definitely feelings.

“It’s definitely a dream come true. It’s a blessing. It’s crazy to be where I am and not take it for granted.”

Young’s pre-season debut wasn’t great. He missed two third-down passes, including one on the second series that led to a three-run on the Panthers offense when they were backed up inside the 10-yard line. He took a sack on the third on his third series. Young was under pressure often and was hit three times, something the Panthers will have to clean up.

“It was a no-holds-barred execution, starting with myself,” Young said. “There are things I definitely could have done better.”

But Young did not seem troubled. He wasn’t bothered by the beating. It wasn’t a big moment for him. It was just a few plays for him to get comfortable with the NFL’s pace. Young finished 4 of 6 for 21 yards before Matt Corral took over early in the second quarter. Young has two more preseason games ahead of his first regular season game at the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1.

There wasn’t much to remember from Young’s first preseason shots. But it looks like it belongs.

Bryce Young made his NFL preseason debut with the Carolina Panthers.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Bryce Young made his NFL preseason debut with the Carolina Panthers. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

The Jaguars have a lot of guns for Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence fielded Calvin Ridley for his first action in nearly two years, hitting him twice for 23 yards. Lawrence caught a very nice fourth pass to Christian Kirk in the back of the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown. He hit Zay Jones on a float pass to the back of the end zone for a two-point conversion. Lawrence and the Freshmen only played two series, but you could see the crime potential in that short drive.

The Jaguars defense wasn’t up against Dak Prescott, Tony Pollard, CeeDee Lamb, or other Dallas Cowboys rookies, but it did its job, holding Dallas to no points in the two series the rookies played.

The test on Saturday wasn’t the best because the Cowboys didn’t play their starters like the Jaguars did, but it was still a solid start to pre-season. Jacksonville won 28-23. The Jaguars came out strong late last season to win the AFC South title and a playoff game, then added Ridley to the roster in the offseason once his suspension expired for violating the NFL’s gambling policy. The first view of Jacksonville in the preseason was positive.

The Tennessee Titans have one of the most interesting backup quarterback battles this month. They recruited Will Levis in the second round, but Malik Willis was still on the roster. Willis struggled as a starter in the regular season last year, but was an exciting prospect. Willis started Saturday against the Chicago Bears. Willis played well. He was 16 of 25 for 189 yards and also ran for 22 yards and a score. The interception and fumble was a matter of concern. Willis got ahead of Levis, who held the ball for a long time at times. Levis didn’t look the part though, especially with his arm strength. He could have had a great end but missed an open reception when the Titans trailed 23-17 in the final minute, then threw an interception at the end of the game. Levis was 9-of-14 for 85 yards in Tennessee’s 23-17 loss to the Bears.

The fight is important because the Titans may be moving on from Ryan Tannehill after this season and they need to figure out the start of 2024. He didn’t trade the Tennessee Levies in the second round of this year’s draft to be their number three for a long time. But Willis can force the issue by playing well this season and holding on to the QB2 job. Willis has the lead and probably still does after Saturday.

other games

Buffalo Bills 23, Indianapolis Colts 19: The big story of Saturday’s game was the preseason debut of Colts rookie Anthony Richardson, who looked fine other than one bad interception. But the best moment was returning to the game for safety Demar Hamlin, who returned after suffering cardiac arrest on the field in a game against the Bengals last season.

Philadelphia Eagles at Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens entered the game with a 23-game winning streak in the preseason, which is an NFL record. Not many of their starters played, with the well-traveled Josh Johnson starting at quarterback. The Eagles have sat out most of their starters as well. We’ve seen Philadelphia dominate the running game. D’Andre Swift had a 22-yard touchdown run on the Eagles’ first series as he tries to solidify his role in a crowded backyard. Quarterback Marcus Mariota made a couple runs on the first drive for 16 yards, including a nice run on fourth down to keep the drive alive. Rashad Penny broke through a 10-yard touchdown run to begin the second drive. Even Trey Sermon caught a rushing touchdown in the second quarter. The Eagles had 102 yards rushing on 20 attempts in the first half. Philadelphia would once again have a terrific offense, and a devastating running game that would be among the best in the NFL.

Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams: These two teams meet every year in the pre-season and that’s fitting. Rams coach Sean McVay started the trend of not playing any rookies in the preseason, and his longtime assistant Brandon Staley took that approach to the Chargers. Although McVay said he may be playing more starters this season than in the past, with his squad featuring plenty of young players filling the starting spots.

Final thoughts

• Khalil Herbert looked good when he started Saturday’s game with the Bears. He quickly considered his four carries for 15 yards. And Herbert put in a great performance in the passing game, catching a short pass from running back Justin Fields and threading through the defense for 56 yards. Herbert has a lot of talent, but he also has some competition in the Bears backcourt. He earned a first-choice carry in the preseason, and the Bears have no reason to move him down the depth chart after his performance.

• The Colts couldn’t have been more thrilled to see kicker Matt Gay miss a 26-yard field goal. The Colts signed Jay that season to a four-year, $22.5 million deal. This is the biggest free agent deal ever for a synthesizer. Jay has had a very good career and is probably going to be okay, but it was a rocky start to his Colts career.

• Matt Barkley and Kyle Allen are vying to be Josh Allen’s backup to the Bills, and Barkley made a big statement. Kyle Allen made the start, but was ineffective and threw a pick six. Barclay was great. He completed 14 of 15 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns. It’s a huge day in an important competition.

• The Jets take a long look at quarterback Zac Wilson this preseason. Hall of Fame inductee started and played the first half of Saturday’s Panthers game. Wilson played well, completing 14 of 20 passes for 123 yards in the first half. Wilson caught a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kenny Yeboah from a nice fake play before halftime. The Jets want to feel confident in the former second overall pick as a backup, and Wilson’s season prep has been good so far.

• Jets first-round pick McDonald IV makes a successful debut. On the third-and-four, McDonald beat left tackle to the outside and got a sack of Panthers quarterback Matt Corral, forcing Carolina into a punt. If McDonald can make an immediate impact, it will help the Jets defense that took a huge leap last season.

• The Cowboys know they can count on Cooper Rush to fill in for Duck Prescott if needed. Although the Cowboys didn’t have any starters in the outfield with Rush, he was a force in the game. Rush was 10 of 12 for 86 yards.

• Justin Tucker is as good as ever. The Ravens put up a short drive in the last minute of the first half but only got it as far as the Eagles’ 42-yard line. No problem for Tucker, whose field goal attempt was 60 yards as the first half ended down the middle. It’s ready for another season.

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