Bryce Young finished the organized team activities portion of his first NFL offseason program with a heavy workload.
Thursday, Young took all of the first-team reps for the Panthers offense during team drills in the final OTA workout. Young, who controlled the first-team reps throughout the entire week, was told about his ascension on the depth chart late last week.
While head coach Frank Reich stopped short of saying Young was the official top guy going into minicamp, the play-caller admitted that Young’s promotion in practice had been planned for a while by the coaching staff and front office.
“For right now, that was our move,” Reich said. “Again, there’s really nothing more to say other than this was a time we had earmarked to make a move. We made the move, we’ll just keep progressing, and we’re always going to do what’s best for the team.”
Young, who had some early misfires in individual and 7-on-7 sessions, found his accuracy during the 11-on-11 work. Young had a trio of impressive tosses to wideout Terrace Marshall during the full-team drills.
The duo’s connection was apparent on a pair of highlight plays. During the first passing rep of 11-on-11 drills, Young fired a shot into traffic to Marshall across the middle, and the wideout snagged the ball right in front of a defender. During another phase of team drills, Young led Marshall toward the sideline on a deep crossing route — which was well-covered — and Marshall hauled in the ball before stepping out of bounds.
Young also did a nice job of finding his checkdown options when coverage was tight — like it was for most of the morning. Running back Miles Sanders was targeted multiple times out of the backfield, as Young made adjustments with strong defensive reps.
At one point, linebacker Shaq Thompson seemed to get to Young on what would have been a sack in a live game. Since this was a non-contact drill, the whistle wasn’t blown and Young connected with tight end Tommy Tremble over the middle.
Following practice, Young took the humble route when discussing his role with the first-team offense.
“For me, it’s just about attacking every day, trying to do everything I can to get better for the team, us as a team, us as a unit — pushing ourselves to accomplish our goals,” Young said. “Regardless of where that’s at (on the depth chart), that’s up to the coaches, that’s out of my hands, so I just want to show up every day, do all I can to help the team, and that’s really been the approach.”
Young, who has only appeared in five media-attended workouts, has looked like the best quarterback on the field throughout OTAs.
Veteran Andy Dalton struggled with accuracy in team and individual drills on Thursday, but finished 4 of 7 during 11-on-11 work. Young capped the workout at 10 of 14 during the same drills. Matt Corral threw the ball twice — with one completion — during 11-on-11 period.
Jaycee Horn to miss mandatory minicamp
The Panthers announced before the workout that top cornerback Jaycee Horn (ankle/foot) would miss next week’s mandatory minicamp with a non-surgical injury. Horn injured his left ankle and foot during a workout, according to Reich, but he is expected to heal in time for training camp in July.
While Horn won’t miss much time, his temporary absence weighs heavily on the cornerback depth chart. With Donte Jackson (Achilles) also recovering from injury, the Panthers are without their top two cornerbacks in team drills.
C.J. Henderson, Keith Taylor and others are being asked to pick up the burden of the drills.
“Not concerned,” Reich said. “This offseason, obviously, with C.J. not taking some reps and Donte not taking reps, our secondary guys have gotten a lot of work. This injury to Jaycee, thankfully, it’s a non-surgical injury. And so, he should be ready for training camp. I love the work that our secondary has done — it gives us a lot of confidence in our guys.”
Along with Henderson and Taylor, the Panthers have the undrafted rookie trio of Mark Milton, Rezjohn Wright and Colby Richardson taking on additional reps. Wright was previously sidelined during the first two media-attended OTA sessions.
Stantley Thomas-Oliver, a special teams ace, and Herb Miller, a young veteran, are also taking on more work due to the low numbers at the position.
DJ Chark takes part in team drills
Free-agent addition DJ Chark was forced to wait patiently during the offseason program as he recovered from ankle surgery.
Chark didn’t start taking part in individual reps until late last week. Thursday, he took another step forward in his recovery by making the play of the day.
Chark — who took part in team drills for the first time this week — ran a deep route against single coverage during 7-on-7 drills, and Young floated a rainbow toss down the sideline for the veteran receiver to snag. Chark came down with the ball, despite strong coverage, and a group of visiting season ticket-holders cheered following the big play.
“I had a simple ‘go’ (route) — I really wasn’t the main read or anything like that — but I guess Bryce wanted to take that shot, so he threw it,” Chark said. “We made a play and that’s the type of things we have to continue to do moving forward. It’s good when you can make a big chunk play like that — not on-schedule, per se — so shout out to him for making that throw. He’s been doing that pretty much the whole offseason, so it’s good to be the recipient of a few of those.”
Reich has been pleased with Chark during the offseason program, despite his limited work in drills. The Panthers are excited about what the former Pro Bowl wideout brings to the offense.
“You guys see the play he made today?” Reich said. “That deep ball down the sideline was a real nice catch, and those are the kinds of plays that we’re looking for from D.J. I give him a lot of credit, I give our training staff a lot of credit — just keeping him on pace, being patient. And D.J., he’s been really anxious to want to get out there. It’s hard to sit around and watch all the time. So, we’ve kind of paced it, and he’s looked good the couple of days this week.”
▪ Update: Following practice, the Panthers claimed defensive tackle Jalen Dalton and running back Tiyon Evans off waivers. The Panthers ended OTAs with two open spots on their 90-man roster, so corresponding moves weren’t necessary. Dalton was waived by the Atlanta Falcons on Wednesday, while Evans was waived by the Los Angeles Rams.
▪ The following players appeared on the practice field but didn’t participate in the workout due to injury or otherwise unspecified reasons: OLB Brian Burns (ankle), CB Jaycee Horn (ankle), WR Damiere Byrd, OT B.J. Wilson (Achilles), G Chandler Zavala, G Austin Corbett (ACL) and WR Josh Vann.
The following players weren’t seen during the voluntary workout: OT Larnel Coleman, DE Henry Anderson, OLB Marquis Haynes and DT John Penisini. It’s worth noting that Haynes is hosting a youth football camp in his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla. on Saturday.
▪ Wideouts Terrace Marshall and Jonathan Mingo — this year’s second-round pick — stayed after practice to work on their hands with the JUGS machine. The pair of playmakers didn’t leave the field until 25 minutes after the final whistle blew.
▪ Reich heaped praise on running back Miles Sanders, who has seemingly exceeded expectations since arriving in Charlotte. Sanders will get the majority of the touches out of the backfield this season, if he can remain healthy.
▪ Speaking of running backs, Chuba Hubbard looks much bigger on the practice field this offseason. He had a couple of nice runs in team drills, even without the contact allowed in the workout.
▪ Reich went out of his way to say the tight end group has exceeded expectations this offseason. It’s worth noting that the lone addition to the group — starting tight end Hayden Hurst (sports hernia) — has yet to take part in team drills. Holdovers Tommy Tremble and Stephen Sullivan both made nice plays on Thursday in the passing game.
▪ Former Panthers wideout Steve Smith was in the building again on Thursday. Smith has been a regular face under the facility during the offseason program. He has been quick to offer advice to Young and the wide receivers, especially.
▪ The Panthers are scheduled to take part in a three-day mandatory minicamp (Tuesday-Thursday) next week. Teams can fine players who choose not to attend the workouts. The Observer will continue to have in-depth coverage of the workouts.