CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — It’s going to take more than a season-opening loss to the Atlanta Falcons to change coach Frank Reich’s mind about Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback Bryce Young.
Although Young was intercepted twice in Carolina's 24-10 defeat on Sunday, Reich said he was “encouraged” by the play of the No. 1 overall pick — and it’s clear he still has plenty of confidence in him.
“I thought he saw the field well and he looked comfortable in the pocket for a guy who had his first start in this league,” Reich said. “The way he responded to adversity, I thought it all was largely positive.”
Falcons veteran safety Jessie Bates III intercepted Young twice on similar throws, leading to 10 points for Atlanta.
Reich said on both occasions Bates “broke the rules” of where an NFL safety is typically designed to be on the field during those particular coverage schemes, adding that Bates peeled off from his assignment to make the interceptions.
“He’s somewhere where you are not expecting him to be,” Reich said of Bates. “If you look at all 10 guys on film and say ’where is the 11th guy supposed to be in coverage?″ Well, he’s supposed to be back there. But they gave him the freedom to break a few rules. And this time they got away with it.”
While Reich called those great plays by Bates, he emphasized that is something the Panthers can take advantage of in the future.
The Panthers tried on Sunday, but didn't convert.
“They may get you once or twice early in the year but then (as the season goes on) as offenses you adapt,” Reich said. “You say, ‘OK they got us on that, but here is our answer to that.’ Then we adapt and adjust. Defenses, when they break the rules, they realize that they are doing that at their own peril, and probably exposing themselves to potential big plays. And they were.”
Young called it a learning experience.
He'll look to improve on Monday night when he plays his first nationally televised game against the New Orleans Saints (1-0) on “Monday Night Football.”
For now, he's continuing to learn.
He took accountability for the interceptions, saying he needs to know exactly how the defense is playing him at all times — and how to exploit it when a defense gambles.
“At the end of the day, it is my job to make sure those people are where they are supposed to be,” Young said. “It's still on me to see that stuff. That's something that we have talked about and we're working toward and making sure we have the ability to take advantage of that."
He added: "We will have stuff to take advantage of that.”
Reich also talked about the need for the Panthers to pick up more “chunk plays” on offense.
Carolina's longest pass play went for 14 yards on Sunday.
The Panthers are hoping to get wide receiver DJ Chark, considered their top deep option, back this week after he missed the Falcons game with a hamstring injury.
Chark said he felt as if he could have played in Week 1, but the team wanted to err on the side of caution.
However, the Panthers are planning to be without cornerback Jaycee Horn and guard Brady Christensen, both of whom were hurt against the Falcons.
Horn has a serious hamstring injury that may require surgery, according to Reich. He said Horn is getting a second medical opinion. The Panthers haven’t decided whether to put Horn on injured reserve, but Reich indicated that is an option.
Christensen will miss at least four games with a biceps injury.