Panthers stock report: Better QB play, but pass protection, short-yardage running struggle

Bryce Young conceded that putting points on the board Friday against the New York Giants felt good — and represented an improvement over last week when the Carolina Panthers were shut out by the NFL’s other New York/New Jersey entry.

Still, it still felt like something was missing to the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft.

“I think he wanted to throw the ball more,” Panthers coach Frank Reich said of Young.

For the second week in a row, Young attempted just six passes before giving way to reserve quarterback Matt Corral. For any quarterback — especially one in his first preseason — that’s a fairly small canvas on which to paint.

“It’s limited opportunities but you’ve gotta make those count,” Young said after the Giants’ 21-19 win. “We understand it’s been a limited amount of passes but we try to treat those passes like it’s the last one we’re gonna get — especially in the preseason since it’s so limited.”


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Young completed 3-of-6 passes for 35 yards over two series — pedestrian numbers, especially when compared to what Charlotte native Daniel Jones did in his one series (8 of 9 for 69 yards and a touchdown).

But Young looked composed against a good Giants defense. He recognized blitzes, made the right reads and had the Panthers in position for a touchdown on their second drive before they self-destructed (more on that below).

“I thought Bryce looked sharp, put together a nice drive,” Reich said. “Would have liked to have us finish it off.”

Whether Young finishes off the preseason in next week’s finale against the Detroit Lions remains to be seen. Reich was noncommittal when asked about his plans for Young in the third exhibition. Young said he’s good either way.

“Honestly, I don’t really know what the procedure is. I know coaches are different. So I wholeheartedly trust the coaches,” he said. “Whatever coach Reich wants me to do and thinks is gonna be best for me and the team, that’s what I’m gonna do.”

Without further ado, The Athletic’s stock report from Friday’s game at MetLife Stadium:

Three up

Matt Corral

The second-year quarterback had his best game in a Panthers uniform. The third-round pick from Ole Miss played with confidence, protected the ball and ran around making plays like he did in the SEC.

After failing to lead a scoring drive in seven possessions last week against the New York Jets, Corral guided an eight-play, 75-yard drive Friday that culminated with the Panthers’ first touchdown of the preseason. Corral had two nice throws to Shi Smith on the drive, including a nifty play when he rolled out of the pocket to escape pressure and found Smith along the sideline for a 27-yard strike. Corral, who missed his rookie season after suffering a foot injury in the second preseason game, also picked up 13 yards on a scramble.

With veteran Andy Dalton out with a back issue, Corral completed 9-of-13 passes for 71 yards, with no turnovers. Corral held the ball in the pocket too long at times against the Jets but was more decisive against the Giants. Corral probably won’t beat out Dalton for the backup job but he could convince the Panthers to keep three quarterbacks.

Jonathan Mingo

The rookie receiver made the most of his two series Friday with the first-team offense. The 6-2, 220-pound Mingo had a nice block on a Chuba Hubbard run and followed that up a couple of plays later with a 15-yard reception. Pulling in a short pass from Young, Mingo bounced off a tackle attempt by safety Jason Pinnock to pick up 10 to 12 yards after the catch.

Mingo’s catch and run made up for what Young called a miscommunication on the first series when Mingo appeared to stop running on what could have been another completion. Young has been praised for his ability to slide in the pocket to create throwing lanes. But in this case it might have thrown off Mingo.

“I was in a different spot in the pocket (than what) you’re assuming at receiver,” Young said. “When you look back, you assume someone’s in the pocket. And when they’re not it can take a second to try to find the ball. It might look different on camera. But it’s just one of those scenarios. It happens.”

Mingo’s mix of power and speed is part of the reason the Panthers thought he would be a good complement to Young, particularly on shorter throws close to the line of scrimmage. The Panthers don’t expect to have a traditional No. 1 receiver this season but it’s clear Mingo will have a big role in the passing game.

Amaré Barno

This is the second week in a row Barno has landed in the stock rising category. Although you could argue that Barno was both a riser and a faller against the Giants.

Barno’s official stat line shows just a single tackle for last year’s sixth-round pick from Virginia Tech. But Barno had two plays in the third quarter in which his speed and explosiveness off the edge again were on display. Barno had rookie quarterback Tommy DeVito wrapped up on the first one. But when Barno rolled to finish the sack, DeVito escaped his grasp and scrambled for a short gain. Two plays later, Barno again came free off the edge but this time drew a personal foul for making high contact on DeVito after he released the ball.

Barno has the skills to be a successful pass rusher but needs to get bigger and stronger. He also needs to get quarterbacks on the ground when he has a chance at a blindside sack.

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Tommy DeVito gets away from Panthers edge rusher Amaré Barno. (John Jones / USA Today)

Three down

Ickey Ekwonu

Pass blocking was thought to be Ekwonu’s trouble spot entering the NFL last year. But after a rough baptism against Myles Garrett in Week 1, the top-10 pick bounced back and was a mostly solid protector at the left tackle position. But Ekwonu has struggled mightily in the first two preseason games.

A week after giving up two hits on Young against the Jets, Ekwonu gave up two more Friday, including a sack by Kayvon Thibodeaux that helped short-circuit the first-team offense’s best drive of the preseason. Ekwonu looked like he was expecting help but there were no tight ends or running backs in the vicinity, and Thibodeaux came completely free to unload on Young.

Reich said he’s not sure what happened on the play. “I have to go back and look at it,” he said. “I can see that flash in my mind but I don’t remember it verbatim.”

Thibodeaux beat Ekwonu again two plays later on a play in which rookie right guard Chandler Zavala — Ekwonu’s N.C. State teammate — was called for holding on a third-and-21 play. General manager Scott Fitterer said on the TV broadcast he thought Zavala held his own against veteran defensive tackle Leonard Williams.

Eric Rowe

Rowe, the veteran cornerback who was an offseason addition, was in the risers category after making several stops against the Jets. But Rowe, had a bad coverage breakdown Friday that left Jalin Hyatt wide open for a 33-yard touchdown reception from Tyrod Taylor that put the Giants up, 14-3. Rowe, who turns 31 in October, is not a lock to make the team. Getting burned by Hyatt did not help his cause.

Short-yardage run game

The Panthers don’t have a true power back after choosing not to re-sign D’Onta Foreman, who’s now with the Chicago Bears. Spencer Brown might qualify at 6-feet and 220 pounds, although the former UAB back was stuffed on two short-yardage plays early in the game. In fairness, the Panthers’ interior linemen didn’t give Brown much of a chance.

On a fourth-and-1 near midfield late in the first half, Brown got the ball again on a run up the middle. He was met in the backfield by defensive lineman Jordon Riley, who blew past the block of center Justin McCray to stop for Brown for no gain. The Panthers’ guards also failed to get movement on the play, with Michael Jordan getting stood up in the hole and rookie Nash Jensen whiffing on his block.

(Top photo of Matt Corral: John Jones / USA Today)

The Football 100, the definitive ranking of the NFL’s best 100 players of all time, goes on sale this fall. Pre-order it here.

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