CHARLOTTE—Thomas Brown knows there are few positive adjectives that could describe the Panthers most recent loss.
After a 26-0 shutout loss to the Jaguars in Week 17, Brown called the defeat, "a low moment," on Thursday. It was not only the fewest yards quarterback Bryce Young has thrown all season (112 yards), it was also tied for the second most sacks he has taken in a game at sixd
The performance was doubly humbling, as it came on the heels of Young's best game of the season in Week 16. Typically, every game can provide some sort of building block for a young player. The tape from the Jaguars loss was tough to watch, however it still gave Brown an opportunity to adjust from what went wrong.
"It's obviously a low moment as far as being able to kind of build upon some stuff from a game-to-game week as far as what we're doing offensively. From an adjustment standpoint, it's about being able to, myself, reflect on not trying to be too aggressive at times and understanding how we're built and what's gonna give us an opportunity to be able to be involved in games.
"But it's also addressing some of those needs when it comes to, protecting the quarterback better, having better answers as far as the ball coming out faster and obviously sticking to how we're built overall offensively."
The Bucs are eighth worst in the league in total defense, allowing an average of 353.3 yards per game. Furthermore, they have the worst passing defense of all 32 teams, giving up an average of 260.3 yards per game through the air.
So is Sunday a chance to throw the kitchen sink at the Bucs and let Bryce Young test what he can get away with in the final game of the season?
"After last week, absolutely not," Brown joked.
Or, at last, kind of joked. A "halfway" joke, Brown called it. He doesn't want to dump too much too fast on his rookie passer. However, the chance to do a few things different is in play.
"I think I kind of get more from a standpoint of being able to add a couple of wrinkles here and there," Brown said. "I think about being able to stay committed to what's gonna give us an opportunity to be successful. (We) had some success in the first game against Tampa as far as the stuff we did from a normal (down and distance) standpoint.
"But situation wise being better, particularly on third down is gonna be able to, a big point of emphasis for this week."
The Panthers were 3-of-15 on third down against the Buccaneers in the Dec. 3 loss.
— The status of Jaycee Horn for Sunday's season finale is still "questionable." At least, as far as defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero knows. That was how Evero described Horn's availability on Thursday, telling reporters Horn was "questionable, I think. We'll see." The third year corner has played in five games this season, with injuries. He was active for Week 17's matchup versus the Jacksonville Jaguars, but did not register a snap.
As the Panthers now prepare for the tampa Bay Buccaneers, Horn (toe) has practiced in a limited role on Wednesday and Thursday. Evero and coaches are taking it one day at a time to determine Horn's availability for Sunday.
"He's had a little bit of practices, walk-thru. We'll see as we get closer what that's gonna be like," Evero said.
— As Thursday's locker room availability began to wind down, shouts and laughter rang out from the far end. Adam Thielen had been taking on any and all challengers at the ping-pong table, for the better part of half-an-hour. His final opponent though was not taking it easy on the veteran receiver. It was interim coach Chris Tabor, laughing harder and harder with each volley.
The act, simple enough, echoed the larger attitude Tabor and his respective charges have around each other, and part of why Panthers players and others, want to play for Tabor.
The NFLPA released the first part of their annual survey with players, which typically is formatted as a report card for each organization. On Thursday however, the players union shared the Top 5 coordinators that were voted on as those whom players considered the best.
Tabor was ranked second amongst all special teams coordinators. Brown was ranked second in his respective category as well.
These rankings are judged not so much on statistical success, but rather everything off the field. Who is creating the best environment for their roster?
Kicker Eddy Piñeiro has been with Tabor for four years now, crossing over while with the Chicago Bears and now the Panthers. He has seen Tabor as every version of a coach, from coordinator to interim head coach, and all that led to Tabor's ranking.
"I just think his personality," Piñeiro said. "He's a great guy, a great coach, and he just keeps it real…I don't even see him as a coach, I see him more as a family member."
Piñeiro has been with six teams himself, and has played under many coordinators. But his time with Tabor sticks out for one very big reason.
"He's never lied to me before. You heard a lot of bad stories of coaches lying to players, promising game time or promising this, promising that. But he's kept it real with me since day one and that's all you can ask for in a coach. Genuinely he's just a good person."
Brown may be the yin to Tabor's yang, personality wise, but it's what works to keep the balance in the locker room, and why his players feel he was voted so high as well.
"I'm big on just passion and not really, necessarily like hollering and yelling at players but like his his love for the game and the desire to win is very strong and that's something that you really feel, and he cares a lot too," running back Miles Sanders said of Brown. "Just a guy that demands excellence. Comes to work every day as if he's playing in the game, you feel that energy."
— DJ Chark Jr. was named the recipient of the annual 2023 Tom Berry Good Guy Award on Thursday. The award is voted on and presented by the local chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America, those who cover the Panthers beat on a day-to-day basis. It recognizes the player who "best helps the media do their job" and is always available to talk, win or lose.
Accepting the award after today's practice, Chark said, "In this game, you make a lot of relationships with people and you go, at least I try to be personable with everyone I meet and genuine with my answers and when I speak to people, so it feels great to know that didn't go overlooked."
View photos from the Panthers' practice on Thursday.