Will Panthers’ Bryce Young grow like Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence?
The Carolina Panthers trailed 6-0 Sunday at the Jacksonville Jaguars — on their way to being shutout for the first time in 342 games — when rookie quarterback Bryce Young was sacked for a 10-yard loss on third-and-8.
The typically levelheaded, mild-mannered and soft-spoken player went to the sideline, sat on the bench to watch the replay with quarterbacks coach Parks Frazier and then angrily slammed the tablet to the ground.
“I was just frustrated with myself,” Young said after the 26-0 loss. “I’d just missed a third down we’ve got to make. … I was just frustrated with myself.”
There was much to be frustrated with on a day when the Panthers had only 124 yards of total offense, gave up six sacks to a defense that ranked 27th in the NFL and failed to score for the first time since a 30-0 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 13 of the 2002 season.
It was the second-longest active streak in the NFL behind the Baltimore Ravens (352), making this the low point in a season of lows that assured the Panthers (2-14) of having the league’s worst record — and the Chicago Bears of having the top pick of the 2024 draft. Carolina gave the Bears two first-round picks and top wide receiver DJ Moore to move up to No. 1 to draft Young.
“I was just mad at myself,” Young said as he continued to explain his frustration.
Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 pick of the 2021 draft (who missed his first NFL game Sunday with a shoulder injury), can relate.
He had a 3-14 record as a rookie and threw 12 touchdown passes to 17 interceptions, even worse than Young’s 11 touchdown passes to nine interceptions in 15 games.
He also experienced a shutout, throwing four interceptions in a 20-0 December 2021 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
His offensive line was dominated that day in much the same way the Jaguars dominated Carolina on Sunday. Lawrence was sacked three times, prompting four holds and a false start. All of the interceptions were the result of pressure, not blitzes.
“It seems like our rookie years are kind of going similar up until this point,” Lawrence said. “I would just say for him to just stay the course. There’s no denying he’s a super-talented guy. He has all the tools and tangibles.”
The Panthers can only hope Young improves over the next couple of seasons the way Lawrence has. The former Clemson star improved to 9-8 in his second season and helped the Jaguars reach the playoffs. He is 8-7 in Year 3, and the Jaguars are 9-7 after snapping a four-game losing streak to move closer to another playoff appearance.
Lawrence has thrown 44 touchdown passes and 20 interceptions the past two seasons.
“Just stay the course [and] hopefully he’s going to have a long career,” Lawrence said. “He’s definitely got the talent and the abilities to do that. Obviously, things are a little gray with how the season has gone, but continue to plug away. Things will get better.”
Statistically, Young and Lawrence are having similar rookie seasons. Young entered the game ranked 28th out of 30 qualified quarterbacks in Total QBR with a rating of 34.7. Lawrence ranked 28th out of 31 qualified quarterbacks in 2021 with a rating of 39.1.
He entered Sunday 12th with a rating of 58.0, an improvement from his second campaign, when he ranked 17th (56.1).
Where Lawrence succeeded most as a rookie was remaining confident in his own abilities. He sees the same characteristic in Young.
“If he just continues to be the same guy every day, then that’s what you need in those situations,” Lawrence said. “He’s a guy that I think is easy to root for, just his personality and the way he carries himself. Those are things that I appreciate.”
Young actually apologized after slamming the tablet, mouthing “my bad” on the sideline to show his continued maturation as a leader. That took some doing on a day when Young completed only 19 of 32 pass attempts for a season-low 112 yards with one interception for a 53.1 passer rating.
What hurt Young the most, however, was something Lawrence never experienced as a rookie to the level the former Alabama star has.
Lawrence was sacked 32 times as a rookie. Young has been sacked 59 times, second most in the NFL behind Sam Howell of the Washington Commanders with 61. Two in the first half were given up by left tackle Ikem Ekwonu, whose 18 sacks surrendered on his pass blocks is the worst by any player at any position, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
In 2021, Lawrence had a left tackle in Cam Robinson who protected his blind side well. Fixing the offensive line, beginning at left tackle, will be a priority for the Panthers to help Young in 2024.
Young, however, isn’t looking past the regular-season finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“We’ve got one more week, one more opportunity to get better,” Young said. “Be better and put a better product out there next week.”
ESPN Jaguars reporter Michael DiRocco contributed to this story.