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Carolina Panthers

Other coaches are seeing Bryce Young's knack for YAC

Adam Thielen, Bryce Young

CHARLOTTE — The coaches who see Bryce Young on a daily basis may have a different perspective on their quarterback and perhaps an inherent bias since they picked him, and he's theirs.

And even though opposing coaches can have a habit of over-praising opponents (there were never enough spots on the Pro Bowl team for Panthers players, in Jon Gruden's opinion, when he coached the Buccaneers), it's still interesting to hear their perspectives from afar.

So when Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel — who orchestrates the league's No. 1 offense — was asked Wednesday about Young, the thing he zeroed in on was interesting.

"A baller with a bright future," McDaniel said of Young during his Wednesday press conference. "He's one of the few young quarterbacks that you see coming out that see defenders when operating as a quarterback. His vision is uncanny, and with his timing and rhythm to the game, you can see that he's going to be a very good player in this league, in my opinion. There's nothing more difficult than being a rookie starting quarterback. In that process, you learn live speed.

"What I've seen is a guy that's showing his talent through the rhythm of plays and learning certain things with regard to – he's uncanny in the pocket, how he moves, and he'll continue to get better at extending plays. He throws a very catchable ball that's built for YAC. You can tell – there's a reason for why the guys that he played with in college and how much respect they have for him. If you don't believe me, just ask any 'Bama player, and then you can tell why he's earned the respect of not only other rookies but veterans on that team."

Those things track with a lot of what the Panthers saw in Young when they chose him first overall. But for McDaniel to single out the potential for yards after the catch points to something that's been there amid a tough start to the season.

The Dolphins are first in the league in passing offense with 1,639 yards already this season and, unsurprisingly, first in YAC (yards after the catch) with 851 (51.9 percent of their big-play offense).

The Panthers are 22nd in the league in passing offense with 992 yards, but they're 16th in the league in YAC (543, or 54.7 percent).

They obviously aren't a prolific passing attack in the way the Dolphins are, but they have found an area where they can succeed and build.

When asked about McDaniel's praise, Panthers offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said Young's gift there is about far more than physical tools.

"I think being able to throw a catchable ball means understanding who you're throwing to, the timing, the space," Brown said. "When it comes to underneath routes, deeper throws, but also leading receivers from an angle standpoint, so they can have catch-and-run opportunities, which is gonna be huge for us every week."

It can be helpful in particular this week, as Dolphins coordinator Vic Fangio calls a shell defense, which is designed to keep everything in front of them and limit big plays. But as Brown noted, that also creates the chance to "catch and run and explore those spaces in the defense."

Veteran backup quarterback Andy Dalton said the key to throwing what McDaniel referred to as "a catchable ball" was a matter of "spin and weight."

"I feel like there's some weight with some people who throw it; some balls feel heavier when you catch the ball," Dalton said. "And, so when I think of catchable, I feel like it's not spinning too much, but spinning enough, it's not heavy when it hits your hands, and you're putting it in the right spot, to allow yourself to get more yards."

Dalton also said he's not surprised that veteran wideout Adam Thielen has prospered in that area since "he's been doing that his whole career. "

So while Thielen might not be a speed merchant like Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill (who leads the league in YAC with 269 of his 651 yards), he's still effective after the catch, with 169 of his 394 yards coming that way.

Adam Thielen

"I think also the position that Adam plays being in the slot versus the outside receivers, this gives him more opportunity to catch more balls across the middle," Brown said. "You know, most times when you play in the slot, you're not playing against, not disrespecting nickels, but the corners on the outside. But also, from a spacing standpoint, it kind of replaces what, in older days, the tight end used to be kind of right in the middle, catching a lot of balls.

"And of course, I mean, Adam is doing a great job of winning when it comes to separating."

Of course, Thielen was one of their first moves in free agency for a reason, as they wanted to give their rookie quarterback a reliable target from the start. And so far, the 33-year-old Thielen has obliged, as he's fourth in the league in receptions (38) and 11th in receiving yardage (394).

So he may have a reputation for finding open spaces, but he's been impressed with Young's ability to find him there.

"I mean, his ability to kind of put it in a spot that allows you to catch and run, and what that means is, it's not too far in front of you, too far behind you; it's kind of that perfect sweet spot of you can catch it and then turn up field immediately," Thielen said. "It also means that in zone coverage, things like he's kind of offsetting you to say that I'm going to put it on this side of you, so it means turn that way.

"It's probably a mix of both a little bit of anticipation knowing where and when you're going to be, and then also ball placement knowing, OK, it's man coverage, I'm going to lead him a little bit, or zone coverage, I'm going to stop him and let him be able to turn up-field, stuff like that."

When Young talked earlier this week, he made several references to "honing in on the details and executing," and that's still something they have to do. They're still looking for their first win, after all.

But as they develop an offense around a rookie quarterback, they've also found something to build on and, more importantly, something they can run with.

View photos from the Panthers' practice on Thursday.

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