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Carolina Panthers

Dave Canales has a plan for Bryce Young, but doesn't want to "fix" him

Dave Canales

INDIANAPOLIS—If it's not broke, don't fix it, and as far as Dave Canales is concerned, Bryce Young isn't broken.

"No plan to fix Bryce Young," Canales stated early and confidently on Tuesday during his press conference at the scouting combine.

It's easy to assume, after a rookie season in which Young finished with a 59.8 percent completion rate, with 2,877 yards and a 11-10 touchdown to interception ratio, that he might need "fixing."

It's not out of the realm of consideration, following a year in which Young went 2-14 as a starter and was sacked a franchise tying 62 times, that he would hobble out of the season feeling some kind of way. And while there may be issues to address, Canales is adamant that room for improvement does not equal irrevocably inoperative.

"I think for me it's about building an offense that we can be proud of," Canales explained. "Something that something that is tough, something that is smart, that takes care of the football.

"I really respect Bryce and the road that has taken him to here," Canales said. "I want to be able to present something to him that's tangible, that's specific and says, 'hey, here's some things that we can really dive into and improve on your things that you're doing.' So, we'll have a great plan when he comes back to us in a couple of weeks."

On Tuesday, hosting his first combine presser as a head coach, Canales teased a plan; it's detailed down to the minutiae, based on every snap Young took as a rookie. Canales is familiar with each of those snaps, because he's spent the past month watching them all. Now, he feels much more versed in the ways of Bryce Young.

"I think that he's got the tools that we saw a year ago. So, I think, number one, we're going to have to teach him a new offense. That's going to be a big part of it. And I think just from a fundamental standpoint, I just see a really accurate player, I see a decisive player," Canales said.

"He's now played 16 games. So, he's got a good variety of exotic looks coverages, blitzes, different things that might have got him, he might not have seen this or that. So, we'll be able to kind of walk him through; 'here's some tells on those things.' So, some basic year two improvement."

Beyond what Young does well, Canales feels he has identified the areas that can use, not fixing, but tweaking.

"Number one, we got to create more explosives," Canales began, "and then of course, we have to minimize damage with exotic pressures and things like that. So, I think just elevating the whole group and really asking Bryce to just do his part."

Canales has now taken all of this information, and poured it into a manifesto of sorts, examining every aspect of Young's game, his approach, where he thinks the quarterback can go, and how to get there. He's hesitant to share the details with the public just yet, until he can present it to Young. The process of creating such a plan though was one he was taught years ago.

When Brian Schottenheimer was offensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, and Canales had been promoted to quarterbacks coach, Schottenheimer explained to Canales, if he wanted quarterback Russell Wilson to buy into everything, he wanted to address heading into the season, he'd need a plan of attack.

"He challenged me. He said, you will earn another level of respect with Russell by approaching it from a detailed standpoint. So, we're really working on that."

While the coach is keeping the details close to his chest for now, he did break down one area of the Panthers offensive game as a whole that has to be a focus; the run game. In a diatribe that would make Sandra Bullock proud, Canales outlined his "stubborn" approach to the ground game. It drew from the times the Bucs had trouble running the ball last year, and Canales, as offensive coordinator, staying dogged on the approach.

"You have to be able to run the ball to go where we want to go, ultimately, which is number one, to win the division in the NFC South, and then to win deep in the playoffs. And if you watch the teams that go far, it's the teams that can run because I promise you, the pass rush gets better every week, you advance in the playoffs," Canales said.

"So, it's something that I'm going to be stubborn about. It's something that I'm going to be committed to."

The Panthers finished the 2023 season 20th in the run game league-wide, averaging 104.1 yards per game on the ground. General manager Dan Morgan told reporters on Tuesday that he is evaluating this draft and free agency class under the belief that Chuba Hubbard will be the Panthers lead back in 2024.

"As of now he's a lead back," Morgan said of Hubbard. "Going forward, him along with Miles Sanders, I think they are two really good backs that I think can come along and keep getting better together. I'm looking forward to seeing both of them under the new regime."

Chuba Hubbard

With Hubbard as the work horse, Canales draws some similarities between Miles Sanders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers back, Chase Edmonds, but adding, "Miles has a little bit more power in his run style." Between the duo and whatever the Panthers do in the next two months, Canales will get his run game. Subsequently, he believes, Young will get an easier time.

"It's how you create explosive plays in the play action," Canales explained. "But then it's also how you're able to neutralize a really good offense on the other side by running the ball by having, not game management all the time, but also just being balanced and mixing those in allows you to have that time of possession."

Canales and Young can't dive into the football aspects of their relationship until young is back in the building. They still make sure to talk a few times each week though, Canales revealed. And that part of their relationship is vital to everything that will come.

"It's about learning his story; for him, learning my story and kind of getting to know each other, so we understand our style of communication. I want to know who I'm talking to and I want him to know who's talking to him," Canales revealed.

"Because what'll end up happening is, if we forge that relationship, then we can kind of put our guard down in terms of protecting ourselves from different things or keep feeling like, he might feel like I'm attacking him. Instead, no, it's this person who I know, asking me to do something. So, that's really important."

When Young and the Panthers players return for the offseason program, they'll be introduced to a heap of new ways, schemes and faces. But it won't be a "fix" job, as far as Canales is concerned. Instead, he'll maximize everything the young offense can do.

Check out photos from the Lowe's NFL Experience, where Panthers quarterback Bryce Young and Panthers Legend Luke Kuechly interacted with fans, tossed some footballs and even made pancakes.

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