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Panthers’ legend gets real about Bryce Young’s struggles in his rookie season

Bob Donnan - USA Today Sports

Bryce Young entered the 2023 NFL Draft as the toast of college football at the University of Alabama.

The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft by the Carolina Panthers. His rookie season did not go the way he wanted it to, but it was not all his fault.

Carolina did not have an offensive line suitable to protect him and wide receivers consistently dropped passes. The Panthers lost 15 games last year, which is the most defeats Young has taken in high school and college combined.

Carolina moved on from Frank Reich, hiring a young offensive-minded head coach it feels will be better for Young. The Panthers also added Deontae Johnson, a talented wide receiver, from the Pittsburgh Steelers to help.

RELATED: Are the Miami Dolphins giving Tua Tagovailoa another veteran WR?

Steve Smith Sr., a former wide receiver for the Panthers, is an analyst for NFL Network.

A former third-round draft pick in 2001, Smith played for the Panthers from 2001 to 2013.

He made it to five Pro Bowls and was a two-time first-team All-Pro. Smith was a seven-time 1,000+ yard receiver and the undersized playmaker (5’9″) made the Panthers’ Hall of Honor. He loves Young, but Smith believes the Panthers did not set the California native up for success in his first season. He explained his reasoning on The Ones podcast with Robert Griffin III.

“I liked Bryce Young initially,” Smith said.

“I picked Bryce, and said we should go with Bryce, but that does not mean I don’t think C.J. [Stroud] can’t play. Last year with Bryce Young and the Carolina Panthers, the way everything went down tells you … Frank gets fired, I said just like other people reported it that Bryce’s processing was faster than C.J.’s, but at the end of the day a smart kid can look dumb if he’s around a lot dumb people.”

Young and Stroud were the first two quarterbacks taken last year. 

Stroud, the No. 2 overall pick, took the Houston Texans to the AFC playoffs and won a playoff game. Young has an opportunity to have a better sophomore season, but the Panthers have to build around him. 

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Stephen M. Smith is the senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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