Rookie quarterback Bryce Young jogged onto the Panthers’ practice field around 1:30 p.m. on Friday.
Taking part in his first practice with Carolina, the first overall pick in April’s NFL Draft quickly transitioned from working inside the team’s practice bubble to taking snaps under center from tryout offensive lineman Dohnovan West. Cool and collected — like he’d done it all before — Young took the bulk of the reps during each of the day’s drills.
Head coach Frank Reich, who is in his first season at the helm for the Panthers, came away impressed by Young’s handling of the offense.
“Honestly — I don’t want to overdo it on the first day — but he did every little thing right,” Reich said. “The little throws out in the flat, the little bubble screen stuff, the ‘deep over’ (route) throw . . . just threw it with accuracy, saw it well, knew where guys were supposed to be — yeah, just showed complete command.”
Young’s first pass in 7-on-7 team drills fell to the ground incomplete.
But his next five throws found their targets. And If it wasn’t for an impressive pass breakup by undrafted rookie cornerback Rejzohn Wright, Young would have completed his final 9 of 10 passes in the drill.
“Obviously, we come from different systems, different places, and we all move and run a little differently, but there’s so much detail in the coaching here,” Young said, regarding his ability to find a passing rhythm. “Because of that, people are able to get to the same spots. For me, I’m able to be coached on my eyes and where the ball should be, and follow those rules the coaches give me. So, I think really for that, the credit goes to the coaching staff, on being detailed, so that you can take people from all different types of systems, that have played everywhere, and come under one system and try to be fluid.”
During the 7-on-7 period, all four of Young’s passes to second-round pick, wideout Jonathan Mingo, were completed. Following the workout, Mingo mentioned that the pair played catch and ran through the practice script ahead of Friday’s workout.
Young said the rookie duo wanted to prepare in advance so they could make the most of the minicamp.
“We both feel the same way about that — trying do everything we can to help the team,” Young said. “I think, for us, we’re focused on the commitment to that. We want to push ourselves to be the best versions of ourselves.”
Following the 7-on-7 work, the Panthers transitioned to an 11-on-11 period. Although the offense wasn’t dominant during the period, Reich was happy with the way Young commanded the rookie group.
“I thought Bryce did a good job, not only with himself, but commanding the huddle, kind of keeping everybody loose, keeping everybody dialed into what we were doing,” Reich said. “I thought the guys did a great job.”
Toward the end of practice, Young — with former Panthers receiver Steve Smith watching on — heaved a ball down the field to tryout wideout Gary Jennings during the 11-on-11 period. The 5-foot-10, 204-pound quarterback placed the ball in a tight window as Jennings made the catch on a deep crossing route, despite strong coverage.
The impressive play put an exclamation point on the first practice of Young’s NFL career.
“You always want to finish on a positive note — the whole team, certainly as a quarterback as well,” Reich said. “And it was a good day in a lot of respects.”
▪ The Panthers hosted 37 players during their first rookie minicamp practice.
There were five draft picks, 12 undrafted free-agent signings and 18 tryout players. Pass rusher Kobe Jones and wideout Derek Wright also participated as holdovers from the practice squad.
Also in attendance were wideout Austin Proehl — a UNC alum, Charlotte native and the son of former Panthers receiver and coach Ricky Proehl — and Gavin Greene — the son of Hall of Fame pass rusher Kevin Greene, who played for Carolina in 1996. Both players are on a tryout run during rookie minicamp. Proehl worked out for the Philadelphia Eagles at their minicamp last week.
▪ Former Appalachian State running back Camerun Peoples was the only player at his position on Friday. Peoples worked with running backs/assistant head coach Duce Staley throughout the practice. As Reich mentioned during his press conference, the Panthers used tryout quarterback Taylor Powell, formerly of Eastern Michigan, as a fill-in running back during the 11-on-11 period for the sake of efficiency.
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▪ Another tryout player who was used in multiple positions on Friday was former XFL and Houston Texans tight end Jordan Thomas. He wore jerseys No. 99 (as a pass rusher) and No. 85 (as a tight end) during practice, as he moved back and forth from defense to offense.
Thomas, a 2018 sixth-round pick of the Texans, caught 22 passes for 226 yards and five touchdowns during his three NFL seasons before turning to the spring league. The 6-foot-5, 277-pound two-way player could be a project option at the edge position if signed for the offseason program.
▪ Former Panthers safety Juston Burris has rejoined the team as part of the league’s Nunn-Wooten Scouting Fellowship. The program is designed to introduce college and NFL players to scouting duties as they consider their options after their playing careers are completed. Burris, 29, played for Carolina over the past three seasons, producing 96 tackles, six pass breakups and two interceptions.
Burris, an N.C. State alum, began his career as a 2016 fourth-round pick of the New York Jets. The Raleigh native has played for the Panthers, Jets, Browns and Raiders during his career. He played for former interim head coach Steve Wilks in both Cleveland and Carolina.
▪ Former Panthers GM Bill Polian was in attendance at practice. Steve Smith, as mentioned earlier, worked with Mingo during individual drills and spoke with the rookie group after practice.