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Bryce Young sacked six times, as protection breaks down

Bryce Young

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.— Bryce Young lay face first on the ground, Chuba Hubbard crouched over him with a hand on his quarterback's shoulder. Young had just been sacked by Jaguars defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris, and Robertson-Harris then landed with his entire 290 pounds on Young's frame.

It took only a couple of minutes for Young to get up on his own power and walk off the field without help, but long enough to cause a collective holding of breath amongst the gathered Panthers fans in Jacksonville on Sunday.

Athletic trainers took Young into the blue medical tent to check on his lower back, but rookie passer was able to come back in on the next offensive drive. As long as the medical staff cleared him, Young was going to play.

Bryce Young

"You take a tough hit, that's football," Young said of the play and his subsequent return. "I don't think, on either team, there's anyone out there that played that wouldn't say 'I took a tough hit today.' So that's no excuse at all."

Unfortunately for Young and the Panthers' offense, that was only the beginning of what would be a long day when it came to the quarterback's protection.

In total, Young was sacked six times for a loss of 45 yards, en route to a 26-0 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The sacks came from every direction — left, right and up the middle, as three Jaguars defenders notched sacks, with two of them picking up multiple. Josh Allen, already in the Top 10 in the league in sacks, added three sacks against Young, helping him set the Jaguars new franchise record for most sacks in a single season (16.5 so far).

"This was by far the best week of preparation that we've had, no matter who we were playing against," Allen told Jaguars reporters after the game of his lead up to the game.

Beyond Allen's record-breaking day, there are a plethora of reasons the Panthers' protection issues had a breakdown on Sunday. To start, Young took a lot of blame onto his own shoulders, for not helping the line either with protection calls, or shortening their blocking time.

"(Jaguars) have a really good front, really good scheme. Definitely respect them. But it's a group effort," Young said. "I could do a better job of getting the ball out quicker, more effective communication, making the right calls to put us in the best situations, to put everyone up front in the best situations so we're going to the right ball."

Sunday also saw another turn in the rotating door at both guard spots. Veteran Gabe Jackson got the start at right guard and is the eighth to play that position for the Panthers thus far this season. Rookie Nash Jensen, who also started at right guard until this week, went in at left guard in the second half, after starter Cade Mays exited the game with a finger injury. Jensen's insertion at left guard made him the seventh player to line up there this year.

The lack of consistency provides little foundation for a rookie pocket passer who is desperate for such. On Sunday, versus the Jaguars, all the holes sprung. It tied the most sacks Young has taken in a game since Week 8, when the Texans brought him down six times.

"Honestly I can't tell you how, because I haven't see it," Jackson said of what the Jaguars might have been doing on Sunday. "it's our job to keep them away and it's their job to get there. I don't know exactly what scheme wise. Some things I do know. But, (expletive), just wasn't a good day."

Jackson's mere presence though, despite being a relatively new face, does give the offensive line some experience on which to lean, as tackle Taylor Moton explained.

"It's just a next-man mentality," Moton said. "That's just how the game goes. Whoever's playing next to me, I have the utmost faith in him. Playing next to Gabe, I think he's a great guard. He's got the most experience of everyone on the O-line. So someone I can learn from myself."

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Added Jackson, "I try to make sure I do what I'm supposed to do, but outside of that, just things that I've noticed or experience I've had playing against certain people ... tell the guard something they might do or like to do and now to beat it. Not going to be 100 percent right all time, but people do have tendencies ... a lot of it is a mind game."

As the game progressed, the Panthers tried to move Young away from the pressure with bootlegs and rollouts. Averaging 2.3 yards per play and going one-for-13 on third down put their young signal caller in obvious passing situations. It created a static energy that allowed the Jaguars to tee off against Young.

"If you look statistically, it's definitely not where you want to be," interim coach Chris Tabor said. "So that would say we never got in a rhythm for him. That wasn't good. What did we have, 124 yards of total offense? It's gonna be tough to win games when you do that.

There is only one game remaining on the Panthers' schedule, a home finale versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The question arises, what can be done to fix the protection issues for the final week? And at this point, is it worth it? For those on the line, the answer is a resounding yes.

"We gotta play better," left tackle Ikem Ekwonu said. "At the end of the day, we got a lot of responsibility in the offensive line room. And it's a challenge we gotta rise up to each and every week. And the week's we don't do that, it's obviously disappointing. So just gotta be better, drive the team forward."

Added Moton, "Let's just figure out what we can do to keep (Bryce) upright, play in and play out."

View all the action from the Panthers' game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 17.

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