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Passing game looking for a spark at Tampa Bay

Jonathan Mingo

CHARLOTTE - Throughout this season, the Carolina Panthers have tried to create a successful passing game with No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young, and they're still working on it.

Through 10 games with Young as a starter, there have been more misses than hits as Young has passed for 200 or more games in four games while being limited to less than 200 in six games.

"Everything's a week-by-week process," rookie wide receiver Jonathan Mingo said. "Every week, I feel like we're going to have a great passing game. If it doesn't happen, I stay positive and expect it to happen the next week."

Mingo and veterans Adam Thielen and DJ Chark Jr. have emerged as Young's top targets this season.

Thielen has the most targets (100), receptions (77), yards (728), and touchdowns (4), while Mingo (57 targets, 28 receptions, 286 yards, and no touchdowns) and Chark (38 targets, 20 receptions, 263 yards and three touchdowns) are the other most frequent receivers.

Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said the receivers don't bear the blame for the Panthers' struggles. Entering Week 13, Carolina is 30th in the 32-game league in total offense (265.9 yards per game) and 29th in scoring (15.7 points per game).

"I think it's about not just the receivers by our entire group in general," Brown said. "We're just challenging ourselves to be at our best every single day."

Based on defensive coverages, Young usually targets Thielen most, as the 10-year veteran has had five games of 10 or more targets. Mingo's busiest game had him targeted eight times, with Chark being targeted 11 times in game.

In last week's 17-10 loss at Tennessee, the Titans' defense focused on Thielen, and he was only targeted three times, with Mingo getting six and Chark four.

DJ Chark, Adam Thielen

"I put a lot of responsibility on myself, so I need to go out there and continue to be in the right place at the right time," Chark said of his role in the passing game. "You know, Bryce has a lot going on as a quarterback trying to make the reads and all of that. My best answer is to continue to be available so when he does come to me, I'm able to make a play for him."

Young enters Sunday's 4:05 p.m. game at Tampa Bay with a 74.9 passer rating that ranks 30th in the league and has averaged 187.7 yards per game while being sacked 40 times (second-most in the league). If nothing else, he's walking into a more welcoming environment this week, as the Bucs are 27th in the league in total defense, and 31st against the pass.

"We all take ownership, especially offensively," Young said of the struggles. "It's all of us. I think we all look in the mirror. There are all things that we could have done better. We all wanted to do better, and it's a collective unit. There's no finger-pointing from players, coaches, nothing. We all could have been better, and we have to improve."

Brown, who guided the team to a 1-2 as play-caller earlier this season, will return to play-calling duties for the final six games.

He looks at the return as a chance to get improved play out of Young, the receivers, and the entire offense.

"I'm looking forward to continuing to try to find ways to collaborate with him (Young), but the rest of our players," Brown said. "And my overall goal is to educate, to inform, to inspire but also put those guys in the best spot on game day so they can play confident and cut it loose."

According to Mingo, that's always been his goal.

"You've just got to keep working and keep pushing," Mingo said. "You can't dwell on the past. You have to try and fix it."

View photos from the Panthers' practice on Thursday.

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