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Carolina Panthers 2023 NFL Season Preview: Can They Win With Young?

As teams head to training camp and the NFL season approaches, The 33rd Team asks its experts to preview every team’s outlook for the 2023 season. In this installment, Charles Davis takes a deep dive into the Carolina Panthers

>>READ: Panthers Fantasy Football Preview

Panthers Team Preview

What To Know: Offense

The biggest storyline on offense is the development of Bryce Young, the quarterback out of Alabama.

But it's a little bit more nuanced than that. The answer is not just Young because they moved up to No. 1, drafted him and he's a new face of the franchise.

How will Young be coached?

This organization should understand the answer to that question pretty well because they hired Frank Reich. He was the offensive coordinator in Philadelphia when they drafted Carson Wentz.

Doug Pederson was the head coach. Those two former NFL quarterbacks understood what it took to make it in the league. John DeFilippo was their quarterbacks' coach. All of them spoke the same language, taught the same way and reinforced their beliefs with their young quarterback. 

Before Wentz hurt his knee, he was on track to be the MVP of that season. Then Nick Foles took it from there and they won a Super Bowl.

Now, fast forward to the Carolina. 

Frank Reich is the head coach and will call the plays. Thomas Brown is the offensive coordinator. He's a former running back, but he has wisdom that he can apply to this young quarterback.

The quarterbacks' coach is Josh McCown. He's been around the block a few times. There were heavy whispers that the Houston Texans were talking about hiring him to be their head coach at one point.

And here's the best wild card they have: Jim Caldwell. Caldwell is a quarterback guru whisperer from way back as an offensive assistant and former head coach in the league who took the Colts to a Super Bowl and the Lions to the playoffs.

This young man will benefit from this coaching staff in a big way. So the answer is not just Young, but how they will coach Young and what they put around him to give him a chance to be successful.

Carolina Panthers Jeremy Chinn

What To Know: Defense

The biggest story storyline on defense is two-fold.

No. 1, Ejiro Evero is the new defensive coordinator, fresh from a terrific stint with the Denver Broncos. It was one season, his first as a coordinator, but it trained him well.

Vic Fangio had done a great job with Denver before Evero came in, and he probably took it to a different level with that team. So Evero comes in with that experience, with that pedigree, with those skins on the wall.

This defense will believe in him very quickly.

The second part is Jeremy Chinn, Their safety, a young man out of Southern Illinois, was all over the place as a rookie. He played back deep, near the line of scrimmage, blitzed and fell into coverage. They did it all with him.

Last year, the Panthers wanted him to be much more of a pure safety before he got hurt. But now, with Evero, I expect to see him more as a rover and a disruptor. If you want to see what I think you'll get, go back and plug in some tape of Justin Simmons in Denver last year under Evero. Chinn will be much more like that and will have a big impact on a lot of games.

Biggest Off-Field Storyline

The biggest off-field storyline is the management of this team under owner David Tepper.

You've got to believe that he has a big smile on his face because since Tepper bought this team, he's been waiting to have his quarterback, as all the people who own teams do. They want to have a hand in selecting the person who is the face of their franchise.

He was with the entire scouting group and coaching staff in the meetings, on the trips, watching pro days and evaluating these quarterbacks.

He got his man, Young.

We know about his talent, but it's everything else that goes into it. It's the makeup of the young man, the ability to wear the face of the franchise mantle well, and of course, ultimately produce on the field, giving Carolina a chance to win division titles, get into the playoffs and compete for Super Bowls.

David Tepper, owner of the Panthers, got his guy and he's looking forward to watching the results.

Breakout Player Prediction

The breakout player is going to be a brand-new player for the Panthers. They got him in free agency this year and he went to school just down the road, the University of South Carolina. So he's kind of back in the motherland.

That's TE Hayden Hurst.

Coming from the Cincinnati Bengals, Hurst was drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens and was drafted before they picked Lamar Jackson. He also was drafted ahead of Mark Andrews, the perennial Pro Bowl, All-Pro tight end with Baltimore.

Hurst couldn't quite find his niche as a pass-catching tight end in the league. He went to the Atlanta Falcons, it doesn't work out there. In Cincinnati, in the second half of 2022, he started to come into his own and finished with 52 catches.

With a young rookie quarterback, a tight end with the ability to get open downfield is extremely valuable. Don't be surprised if Hurst's production doubles, maybe even almost triples along the way.

This young quarterback will look to get the ball off his hands pretty quickly. And the tight end is often a quarterback's best friend.

A Move the Panthers Should Make

One of the moves I think Carolina is considering, even though it's not talking about it, is getting some help for Brian Burns, the Spiderman coming off the edge.

He is such a good pass rusher, but what helps good pass rushers? A second good pass rusher.

They're trying to find someone else who can balance the line and be that bookend.

Carolina Panthers Bryce Young Frank Reich

2023 Season Expectations

The expectation for Carolina, in any normal division, would be to play well and show improvement. But, for them in the NFC South, which is wide open, being a playoff contender is the expectation, even with a rookie quarterback.

When you look back on this season and ask how did it turn out for Carolina? What did they hope to accomplish? What was the main thing?

The bottom line is very simple. Is Young truly the face of the franchise at quarterback for the future? As a head coach, can Reich finally settle in and know he's got his quarterback?

That he has his quarterback not just for this year and has to start over again next year and the year after, as he did in Indianapolis.

But he and Young can be a tandem — quarterback and head coach — for a long time.

Other Previews

NFC East: DAL | NYG  | PHI | WAS

AFC East: BUF | MIA | NE  | NYJ

NFC North: GB | CHI | DET | MIN

AFC North: PIT | CLE | BAL | CIN 

AFC West: KC | LAC | LV | DEN

NFC West: SF | SEA | LAR | ARI

NFC South: TB | NO | ATL 

AFC South: JAX | TEN | HOU | IND  

Charles Davis is an NFL analyst for CBS and NFL Network. He joined the sports media world after playing safety at the University of Tennessee.