Advertisement

How Dave Canales is maximizing Bryce Young — through the eyes of QB veteran Andy Dalton

There’s no denying that the talk of the Carolina Panthers’ offseason program to date has centered on the connection between Bryce Young and Dave Canales.

Some questions fans have probably pondered:

Can Canales maximize the traits his second-year quarterback possesses, just like Canales has done at previous stops?

Has Young measured up to the “he’s the right guy” expectations Canales had of him the day of Canales’ introduction?

Do they ... get along?

Andy Dalton, the veteran backup quarterback who signed with Carolina last year, has had a front-row seat to see that relationship between (still) new quarterback and new coach grow — and he relayed to reporters on Tuesday that all the aforementioned questions have a simple answer:

Yes.

“I think from the beginning, it’s the relationship they’ve built,” Dalton said of the Canales-Young bond. “It’s instilling confidence in (Bryce), knowing that coach is giving him the keys to this offense. And for Bryce, there are so many things he can do. He’s crazy talented, and the biggest jump you take is from Year 1 to Year 2, and Bryce is going to experience that.

“We’re going to see Bryce do things that he didn’t do last year just because of the experience. We’re already seeing it right now. This was all new to him last year, his first OTAs, now he’s back in here, you can tell how much more comfortable he is right now than he was last year. And so, I think that’s the biggest thing. He’s instilling confidence in him, allowing him to go play the way he can play.”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Bryce Young turns to hand the ball off during the team’s OTA practice on Tuesday, June 4, 2024.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Bryce Young turns to hand the ball off during the team’s OTA practice on Tuesday, June 4, 2024.

Such confidence is welcomed by the Panthers, whose immediate future relies on Young, the creative quarterback who dazzled at Alabama and who even amid a 2-15 struggle last season showed flashes of what he could one day do.

And a lot of that confidence is rooted in Canales’ past. The first-year head coach has substantial proof of reinvigorating quarterbacks and offenses and adjusting to personnel. Take his work as an assistant in Seattle with Geno Smith, who won Comeback Player of the Year in 2022. Take Baker Mayfield in Tampa Bay in 2023 — Canales’ sole season as an offensive coordinator before landing a head job this year.

Dalton has additional reason for such confidence, too.

He’s seen Young grow into the offense first-hand.

“Dave and (offensive coordinator) Brad (Idzik) came in, and they know exactly what they want,” said Dalton, the three-time Pro Bowler and 14-season vet who was brought into Carolina in part to mentor the face of the Panthers’ franchise. “They know what they want it to look like. They know how they want to install it. And they’ve had a plan from the very beginning, and it’s been known from one of the first conversations I’ve had with both of those guys. It’s like, ‘This is how we’re going to do it. This is how we’re going to install it. And it’s going to build throughout OTAs and into training camp.’”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Andy Dalton walks to the team’s OTA practice on Tuesday, June 4, 2024.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Andy Dalton walks to the team’s OTA practice on Tuesday, June 4, 2024.

All of that plan is centered on making a substantive improvement from Young’s rookie season. That year the offense dwelt 30th-32nd in the NFL’s most consequential rankings and was criticized most for being bereft of an identity. Young struggled himself on the whole, throwing nearly as many interceptions (10) as touchdowns (11) and for only 2,877 yards.

In some cases — with some people — such a difficult introduction could ruin promising players. Dalton doesn’t see that in Young.

And a lot of that has to do with who’s around him — Canales prominently among them.

“There are a lot of guys that would (let last year affect them),” Dalton said. “There are a lot guys, though, where it sprung them into their career. I think Peyton Manning is still looking for someone to break his interception record. He’s been saying it every year, every time there’s a draft, that’s one record that he’d be excited to break.

“So yeah, the best thing that you can do is have the experience of being out there. And Bryce got that last year. And this year, we’re still unknown, we don’t know what’s going to happen. But it’s set up for Bryce to take a big jump.”