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Former players know about the infectious energy Dave Canales brings

Tyler Lockett, Dave Canales

CHARLOTTE— You can practically feel Dave Canales coming through the halls of Bank of America stadium, even before you see him. He's a veritable ball of energy, rolling through his new workplace with a contagious zeal.

With each person he passed, the Panthers new head coach stopped and spoke, calling them by name, or asking for their name if he'd forgotten it; which, would be understandable, since he's been met with a barrage of new faces over the past week. He stopped and inquired about the day of the man restocking the water fridge, he made sure to throw some encouragement towards a sales rep passing through the hall, then made his way into the dining hall to catch up and shoot the breeze with the back of house staff there.

Each stop was complete with a jolt of energy and a personal touch. It was action backing up the words of what former players promised Canales would bring.

One of those was Tristan Wirfs. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman gave a big smile as soon as Canales' name was mentioned last weekend while at the annual NFL Pro Bowl.

"Oh my gosh, Dave is just an incredible person," Wirfs effused of his former offensive coordinator. "He's extremely positive, always looking to coach, always looking to help guys get better."

Wirfs and the Bucs will have to face their former coordinator twice a year, as division rivals. During those two weeks, all friendliness will be lost. But the rest of the season, Wirfs can't help but support Canales, even after only being coached by him for one year.

"I think they got a great person. Great coach over there now. Sad to see him go but I loved my time with him," Wirfs said.

Wirfs wasn't the only former player of Canales' roaming the Pro Bowl fields. Seattle Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf was also the recipient of Canales' imprint when both were in Seattle. Metcalf joined the Seahawks the year after Canales was promoted from wide receiver coach to quarterback coach, but the impact of the young position coach was still reverberating around the room.

"My rookie year, he had just left the receiver room, so he coached Tyler (Lockett) and Doug (Baldwin) and all those great guys, and they just spoke highly of him, about how detailed he was," Metcalf shared.

Canales was the wide receiver coach with the Seahawks from 2010-2017, his first job in the NFL. His first five seasons in the league and in the position, the Seahawks largely rode running back Marshawn Lynch. For four straight seasons, Lynch posted over one thousand rushing yards a season. As a result, the passing game was less of a focus for Seattle, and Canales' receivers capped out with a season-leading 898 yards (Golden Tate, 2013) over that course of time.

However, in only Canales' second season, under his tutelage, rookie undrafted free agent Doug Baldwin finished as the team's leading receiver, with 788 yards and four touchdowns.

After Lynch's injury in 2015 and subsequent quasi-retirement/then-trade, the Seahawks game plan took to the air. There, Canales' receivers thrived. Baldwin led the Seahawks in receiving the next three years, including back-to-back seasons with over one thousand yards (in 2015 and 2016).

In 2018, Canales moved to the Seahawks quarterback room, where his work with Russell Wilson and Geno Smith has been well-documented. For those in the building, it wasn't so much about the stats those passers were putting up, but the passion with which they were playing the game again.

"His attention to detail and his love for the game really just showed in how Russ loved him, and Geno loved him and then he helped develop Drew Lock a little bit as well," Metcalf continued. "So, I mean, he's got a lot of great players under his belt and looking forward to seeing what he does with the Panthers."

Even once Canales was no longer working hands-on with the receivers every day, his fingerprints were still all over the Seahawks offense. That was the case in Tampa Bay as well, as his work with Baker Mayfield, helped Mike Evans to his second-best career year for total yardage (1,255) and touchdowns (13), the latter of which also led the league in that year.

Whether working directly with receivers, focusing primarily on quarterbacks, or pulling the strings for the entire operation, Metcalf has seen the result of Canales' impact on just one room, ripple out to positively affect the whole team.

"I think the confidence is really what sells it," Metcalf explained. "Once you have your quarterback playing confident, it just feeds throughout the whole offense. So, receivers catch better footballs and they run better routes. So, everything, in my opinion, just works together."

Canales has already identified ways to manufacture that confidence with the Panthers young quarterback, Bryce Young. Addressing the position at his introductory press conference, Canales said of developing Young would be a function of finding what he's best at, and maximizing it.

"Some of the other things that kind of come to mind thinking about the quarterbacks that I've worked with over the last couple of years is we are going to become what Bryce is great at in the pass game," Canales said. "We're going to grow to the capacity that he can handle. There's got to be a commitment and a discipline about that.

"When I see that back foot planted in the ground and that ball rips out of there without any hesitation, I know we got something."

It will be months before the 2024 iteration of the Carolina Panthers even takes to a practice field. But the building blocks are being laid now, with an attitude shift meant to inspire confidence in every facet of the organization. As DK Metcalf went on to add, it starts at the top, and everything will unfold from there.

Take a look at photos from Dan Morgan and Dave Canales' introductory press conference.

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