CHARLOTTE — Bryce Young’s preseason debut didn’t go exactly as planned.
The No. 1 pick in the NFL draft was 4 of 6 passing for 21 yards on Saturday as the Carolina Panthers lost 27-0 to the New York Jets.
Young played three series and the Panthers picked up just one first down with the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner under center against a Jets defense that rested its starters. New York’s offense was also able to put up points despite resting quarterback Aaron Rodgers again.
Young didn’t get much help from his offensive line as he was hit on three of his seven drop backs, including a blindside shot to the center of his back from 293-pound defensive tackle Solomon Thomas on his first pass attempt.
“It was a lack of execution starting with myself,” Young said. “I definitely could have done better and us as a unit all have to take accountability. ... We have to own this and get better.”
Young’s lack of size was the biggest concern when he entered the league, but the 5-foot-10, 204-pound quarterback bounced back to his feet after taking the hard hit from Thomas.
“I said to him, ‘Well, that was a pretty big welcome-to-the-NFL hit. How did that one feel?’” Panthers coach Frank Reich said. “He said he was fine and barely felt it.”
Added Panthers offensive tackle Ickey Ekwonu: “He shouldn’t be getting hit at all. At the end of the day, that is on us (as an offensive line). We weren’t good enough today.”
Reich didn’t seem overly concerned by Carolina’s lack of offensive production — the Panthers had just 165 yards — saying the team was “very generic” on offense because he doesn’t want to show the league too much of his playbook.
The Jets (1-1) had no problem deciphering Carolina’s offense, registering five sacks in the largest preseason shutout victory in team history.
“I thought our D-line got after them early, and really for all four quarters made it hard for them to operate,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “We represented who we are, our style of play and that was a challenge from this week to last week.”
Rodgers’ debut with the Jets will have to wait for another day as Saleh held out the four-time league MVP for the second straight preseason game. The 39-year-old Rodgers hasn’t played in a preseason game since 2018 with Green Bay.
Zach Wilson got the start and played the entire first half, leading the Jets to scores on three of his six first-half possessions. He finished 14 of 20 for 123 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown pass to backup tight end Kenny Yeboah. Wilson seemed to get more comfortable in the pocket as the game went on, completing mostly short passes underneath the coverage.
“I was trying to get the ball out of my hands quickly, that was kind of my goal today,” Wilson said. “The run after the catch, when you get the ball in some of those guys’ hands they can really do something with it.”
The Jets outgained the Panthers 189-32 in the first half and led 13-0 at the break.
“I think he had three scoring drives, so he was really efficient,” Saleh said of Wilson. “I’m really pumped for him. He’s taken great steps.”
Rookie Israel Abanikanda ran for 37 yards on six carries, including a 26-yard burst up the middle where the fifth-round draft pick from Pittsburgh dragged a defender for the final 5 yards before being taken down just short of the goal line.
After throwing an interception, Jets third-stringer Tim Boyle bounced back with TD passes to tight ends EJ Jenkins and Zack Kuntz. Boyle finished 9 of 10 for 84 yards.
Carolina traded up from the ninth spot in the draft to get Young, with owner David Tepper saying he’s banking on the former Alabama star to lead the franchise to multiple Super Bowl titles.
But if the Panthers (0-1) are to snap a five-year playoff drought and make some noise in the NFC South, Reich is going to need to dramatically improve the team’s offensive line.
A DREAM COME TRUE
Despite his lack of production, Young called his first NFL preseason start “surreal” and a “dream come true.”
“It’s something I will always remember, but you are only able to live in that moment for a certain amount because there is a task at hand,” Young said. “I don’t take that for granted and I am blessed, for sure.”
Panthers veteran backup offensive tackle Cameron Erving left with an injury to his right ankle.
Jets: Host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday night.
Panthers: Visit the New York Giants on Friday night.
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