The Carolina Panthers lost their Week 2 Monday Night Football matchup with the New Orleans Saints 20-17, and even though it was a close game, it wasn’t a pretty one by any means. There is plenty of blame to go around after the loss that dropped the Panthers to 0-2 on the season, so we’ll discuss the Panthers most to blame for the L, including quarterback Bryce Young and wide receiver DJ Chark.
Before we talk about which Panthers are to blame for the Week 2 loss, a quick word about who is not. Adam Thielen was the best player on offense. The veteran wide receiver made seven catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. Rookie WR Jonathan Mingo was also good at times, hauling in a 22-yard catch for the team’s first 20-plus-yard play of the season.
The defense was also good all game. Linebacker Frankie Luvu looked good leading the team in tackles with nine, Kamu Grugier-Hill had a nice sack on Derke Carr, and Brian Burns was his usual disruptive self. Losing Shaq Thompson for the season is a tough blow, but overall the defense played well. Now, onto the players who didn’t play so well.
In the NFL the lion’s share of the blame for the losses (and credit for the wins) goes to the quarterback. That is a lesson 2023 No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young is learning quickly in the first two games of the Panthers’ 2023 season.
The former Alabama signal-caller again didn’t look great, going 22-of-33 for just 153 yards with a touchdown, no interceptions, and four sacks. Young missed several open pass-catchers down the field in this game and always seemed all too happy to settle for the check-down.
This is how rookie quarterbacks roll, but it would be nice to at least see some flashes of greatness from the top overall pick instead of just rookie growing pains.
In fairness to Young, though, the offensive line and the weapons around him didn’t help him out at all, which could be another reason for the struggles.
The Panthers traded DJ Moore to the Chicago Bears for the right to draft Bryce Young (more on that below). With Moore gone, the other receivers on the team got a chance to step up. That included free agent signings Adam Thielen and DJ Chark, rookie Jonathan Mingo, and veteran Laviska Shenault.
Thielen and Mingo played well Monday. Chark and Shenault did not.
Shenault is what he is at this point, so him being ineffective is nothing new. Chark, on the other hand, is a Pro Bowl wideout who had a chance to step up and be a WR1 on this team. And the Panthers got next to nothing (one catch for 15 yards).
Yes, Chark was playing injured. But if he’s out on the field, he’s got to play better. Young needs that, and so do the Panthers.
The biggest reason the Panthers lost on Monday in Week 2 to the Saints is that general manager Scott Fitterer traded DJ Moore, two first-round picks, and two second-round picks to the Bears to draft Young at No. 1.
Saying Fitterer is to blame for the Panthers' Week 2 loss to the Saints isn’t a value judgment on the trade — it’s still too early for that — it is simply a fact.
Carolina is a team in transition as it tries to get back to relevance with a top young QB. Time will tell if Young is that guy, but two weeks into his first year, it’s safe to say there will be several (and maybe even tens) more losses like this before things (hopefully) start to improve.