Carolina Panthers report to training camp with rookie QB, new head coach

No. 1 draft pick Bryce Young enters camp as the starting quarterback after unseating Andy Dalton in OTAs.
Panthers rookie quarterback Bryce Young spoke with the media on Tuesday morning.
Panthers rookie quarterback Bryce Young spoke with the media on Tuesday morning.(Nate Wimberly/WBTV)
Published: Jul. 25, 2023 at 2:02 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 25, 2023 at 5:23 PM EDT
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SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WBTV) - The Carolina Panthers have officially made their return to Wofford College.

The full squad has now reported to Spartanburg for this year’s edition of training camp, and there are plenty of storylines heading into the upcoming season.

Without question the biggest move of the Panthers’ offseason was trading up to draft quarterback Bryce Young with the No. 1 pick in April. Carolina has struggled to find quality play at the position for years, often choosing to sign or trade for “retread” quarterbacks until now.

Immediately after the draft, new coach Frank Reich said Young would have to earn the starting position. The rookie out of Alabama began OTAs as the backup behind fellow newcomer Andy Dalton, but unseated him at the top of the depth chart shortly after.

“I want to do everything I can to earn the respect of my peers and the guys in the locker room,” Young said in April. “I’m super grateful for what’s happening in my past and, you know, in for being selected where I was, but I know that doesn’t entitle me to anything. You know, it’s on me to prove myself to show up every day and work and earn the respect of the people around me.”

Aside from the team drafting Young, the arrival of Reich is a story in itself. The veteran NFL coach played for Carolina during its inaugural campaign in 1995, starting the first game of the season and throwing the first touchdown pass in franchise history.

After his playing career came to an end, Reich returned to the Charlotte area where he served as a preacher and volunteer coach at Wingate University, and then eventually began his professional coaching career a short time later.

Now, after five seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, Reich is back in the Queen City.

Other big-ticket additions for the Panthers this offseason include longtime Minnesota Vikings star Adam Thielen, former Bengals tight end Hayden Hurst, and running back Miles Sanders, who is fresh off a Super Bowl appearance with the Philadelphia Eagles.

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Including the addition of Thielen, Carolina has rebuilt its receiving corps. It was a project the front office had to undertake after trading away D.J. Moore in the deal for the No. 1 pick. Along with the former Vikings star, the Panthers also brought in wide receivers D.J. Chark and Damiere Byrd via free agency, and rookie Jonathan Mingo via the draft. Terrace Marshall Jr. and Shi Smith both showed flashes of potential last season and are returning this year.

One thing that has remained the same for Carolina entering 2023 is its offensive line. All five starters from last year’s unit are returning for the upcoming season, including now second-year left tackle Ikem Ekwonu, who was drafted in the first round of last year’s draft.

Ekwonu appears to have established himself as the cornerstone that the franchise has desperately sought after to protect the quarterback’s blindside - something it has been missing since the retirement of Jordan Gross following the 2013 season.

Defensively, the Panthers are bringing plenty of change into the new year on that side of the ball as well.

Schematically, Carolina will shift from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base defense under new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero. It’s a change that several players, including Brian Burns and Yetur Gross-Matos, have expressed excitement about.

In the secondary, cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and Donte Jackson are primed to return from season-ending injuries last year, and together form one of the better duos in the league. The Panthers also improved at safety, adding Vonn Bell to pair with star do-it-all defender Jeremy Chinn.

Of course the team enters camp with 90 players on the roster, however, it will be whittled down to just 53 by the start of the regular season.

The battle for roster spots will begin as soon as the first practice, which is scheduled for Wednesday morning, gets underway. After that, players will have just 11 more camp practices and then three weeks of preseason play to prove themselves.

As for fans, anyone wishing to attend training camp practices this season will need to claim tickets to be granted entry.

Carolina will play its three preseason contests on Aug. 12, Aug. 18, and Aug. 25, before kicking off the regular season against the division-rival Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 10.

Related: Panthers release training camp dates, tickets now required for fan entry

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