Panthers QB report card: Bryce Young outshines CJ Stroud as Carolina picks up first win

Bryce Young finally has an NFL win on his resume.

The Panthers’ rookie quarterback — with offensive coordinator Thomas Brown making his NFL play-calling debut — led four scoring drives in a 15-13 victory over the Houston Texans Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

The 5-foot-10, 204-pound passer willed his Carolina offense down the field with little help from his offensive line or run game. As he faced constant pressure, Young showed the mobility and off-scheduled playmaking ability he displayed as a Heisman trophy-winning quarterback at the University of Alabama. Young kept his eyes downfield, and as he kept plays alive, he did his best to find open playmakers with throws on the run.

With his longtime friend and No. 2 overall pick, Texans quarterback CJ Stroud, standing on the opposite sideline, Young tossed his two biggest completions of the season. Young also outshined Stroud, as he bested the fellow high-pick rookie quarterback in passer rating, completion percentage, passing yards and passing touchdowns.

Here is how Young graded out in the Week 8 win:

Young’s stats vs. Houston

Young completed 22 of 31 passes (71%) for 235 passing yards and a touchdown. Despite a mediocre performance from the run game, Young was able to lead the passing attack with a 103.6 passer rating.

<a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Carolina Panthers;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Carolina Panthers</a> quarterback Bryce Young passes against the Houston Texans at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday, October 29, 2023. Khadejeh Nikouyeh/

Young’s spreading the ball grade

Young, under the guidance of Brown, spread the ball around early in the game. He targeted eight different skill players in the first half, connecting with seven of them.

Young also showed patience with his playmakers, as he went back to wide receivers Jonathan Mingo and DJ Chark after brutal drops on early drives.

While Adam Thielen continued his weekly role as Young’s favorite target — with eight catches for 72 yards on 11 targets — Young also got the likes of Mingo (four catches for 62 yards on five targets) and running back Raheem Blackshear (two catches for 26 yards on two targets) involved as well. The rookie quarterback completed 13 of 19 passes (68.4%) for 131 yards and a touchdown in the first half.

Young and Mingo hooked up for a 40-yard completion during the first drive of the second half. That play was the biggest passing connection of the season for Young. The quarterback ultimately targeted nine receivers and connected with eight of them.

Carolina Panthers tight end <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Tommy Tremble;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Tommy Tremble</a> celebrates a touchdown with Carolina Panthers guard <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Austin Corbett;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Austin Corbett</a> against the Houston Texans at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday, October 29, 2023. Khadejeh Nikouyeh/

Grade: A

Young’s accuracy/decision-making grade

Young did a nice job of giving his weapons a chance against the Texans’ defense. He threw balls up and made difficult throws throughout the game.

Showing a bit more pocket mobility than in the two previous games, Young was able to evade pressure more consistently and keep passing plays alive. The highlight of the first half featured Young avoiding a sack — as running back Chuba Hubbard got bulldozed with a blitz pickup — and hurling a deep shot to a well-covered Thielen, who caught a 31-yard pass on Texans cornerback Tavierre Thomas.

Young also did a nice job of throwing on the run. He connected with Chark across the middle on the run for a gain of 20 yards on the Panthers’ first scoring drive.

While Young got the ball out late on a couple of plays — most notably a mid-field toss to a wide-open Thielen that set the wideout up for a short gain — the rookie quarterback took more deep shots than he typically would.

Mingo’s drop on third down in the first quarter was a letdown play, as Young threw was perfect anticipation to the rookie wideout’s hands. Mingo simply dropped the ball. Something similar happened on a wide-open downfield heave to Chark. Tight end Hayden Hurst also dropped a wide-open pass in the flat in the fourth quarter.

Still, Young kept his composure, even as he faced pressure regularly in the pocket. Despite a handful of failed throw that weren’t really his fault, Young finished with a 71% completion percentage.

Grade: B

Carolina Panthers quarterback Bryce Young, second from right, hunches down as he is tackled by Houston Texans defensive tackle <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Maliek Collins;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Maliek Collins</a> during the game at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, October 29, 2023. Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez/

Young’s mobility grade

As previously mentioned, Young did a really nice job of using the entire pocket to his advantage. While he was under pressure constantly, the rookie quarterback extended several plays with his feet.

While he only ran beyond the line of scrimmage once in the first half for 3 yards, Young’s athleticism was felt as he avoided play-ending pressure.

Young was seemingly playing a more free game than in weeks past with Brown at the controls. His trademark off-script playmaking style from his college days was on display as he made a handful of big throws on the run.

Young picked up a first down on a short scramble during the first drive of the second half. While he fell face forward, Young was able to dive beyond the pylon and pick up a new set of downs. That play ultimately led to a 46-yard field goal to give the Panthers the lead with 10:46 left in the third quarter.

Young finished with four carries for 11 yards, but his mobility was clearly felt beyond the box score. He was sacked six times, but the quarterback helped keep that number much lower than it could have been.

Grade: B+

Young’s turnover grade

Young made smart decisions in the pocket and completely avoided turnovers, despite being hit 10 times. He was regularly smothered by defenders and he still protected the ball. Even with some difficult throws, he never put the ball in harm’s way.

Grade: A

Young’s overall grade

While the Panthers only put up 15 points, Young was smart with the ball and made excellent plays as a passer. He also utilized his pocket mobility like never before — as he avoided pressure — despite constant breakdowns by the offensive line. With his running backs only picking up 33 rushing yards on 20 carries (1.7 yards per carry) in the game, Young led a one-dimensional attack to four scoring drives.

With Brown calling plays, Young looked calm and collected, despite the letdowns from the run game, the offensive line and three big drops from his weapons. It wasn’t pretty, but Young did his job and elevated the offense against the Texans. He outplayed Stroud — the rookie quarterback darling of the league through six weeks — in a win that can hopefully provide life for this struggling franchise.