CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers need a spark.
That’s one of the reasons head coach Frank Reich decided Monday to give up play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Thomas Brown after his team fell to 0-6 following a 42-21 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
The Panthers rank 23rd overall on offense and 22nd in scoring with rookie quarterback Bryce Young at the helm.
“I think it can” provide a spark, Reich said. “And I’m hoping it will. It would be great. Listen the guys love and respect Thomas and I know they will play hard for him. It’s a great opportunity for Thomas and Bryce (Young) to take this step together. That’s a big deal, getting the coordinator and play-caller and quarterback on the same page.”
Reich had tinkered with the idea of allowing Brown to call plays entering the regular season, but decided against it because he had more experience in that area than Brown. Brown has never called plays at the NFL level during the regular season.
Brown has had input in the play-calling this season and did call some plays during the preseason, Reich said.
Reich said it was his decision — and not that of owner David Tepper — to make the move now. Reich called it “the right time” with the Panthers heading into the bye week, giving Brown two weeks to prepare for Carolina’s Oct. 29 game against the Houston Texans.
He also said it’s likely the decision would have been made even if the Panthers weren’t the NFL’s only winless team.
“It’s always been part of the plan and something that Thomas and I have discussed when he was hired,” Reich said. “I’m excited for Thomas and I’m excited for our team and our offense. Thomas is a stud. He’s a great leader and brilliant offensive mind. We all have a lot of confidence in him. And I think the timing is right.”
Brown becomes the third Black offensive play-caller in the NFL this season, joining Washington’s Eric Bieniemy and Philadelphia’s Brian Johnson.
Despite the losses, Young is making progress. He looked more comfortable in the pocket against the Dolphins and completed 23 of 38 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown against Miami as Carolina jumped out to a 14-0 lead. However, Young spent most of the second half under heavy pressure and was sacked four times.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Panthers offensive line isn’t getting the job done. The Panthers have allowed 19 sacks this season, tied for fifth most in the league. Their 241 yards lost on sacks are the most in the league. If there is some good news for the Panthers it’s that guard Austin Corbett could make his season debut after the bye week. He hasn’t played since tearing his ACL in the final game of the 2022 season.
Wide receiver Adam Thielen has been everything the Panthers could have hoped for and more with 57 receptions in the past five games for 497 yards and four touchdowns. Thielen has caught at least 11 passes in three of the team’s past four games and has touchdowns in four of the past five games. Now Thielen just needs a running mate at wide receiver. It’s time for DJ Chark, Jonathan Mingo and Terrace Marshall to step up.
The Panthers signed tight end Hayden Hurst away from Cincinnati in the offseason figuring he would be a key player in the passing game. But since catching five passes for 47 yards and a touchdown in the team’s season opener against Atlanta, Hurst has been a non-factor with only nine catches for 75 yards and no TDs in the past five games. This past weekend it seemed the Panthers were turning more to Tommy Tremble at tight end.
The Panthers can’t seem to get through a game without an injury. On Sunday, wide receiver Laviska Shenault left in the second quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. He could miss several weeks. The team’s already thin linebacking group had Yetur Gross-Matos leave with a hamstring injury and Frankie Luvu with a hip issue. The status for both players moving forward remains uncertain as Reich did not give an update on Monday. The Panthers have already lost linebacker Shaq Thompson to a season-ending broken leg.
The Panthers might get cornerback Jaycee Horn back from injured reserve when they return from the bye in Week 8. He is expected to get a second opinion.
5 of 5 — The Panthers allowed the Miami Dolphins to score on all five possessions they reached the red zone.
The Panthers have a bye this week before hosting the Texans on Oct. 29. That game will feature a matchup of the top two picks in this year’s NFL draft as Carolina’s Bryce Young faces Houston’s C.J. Stroud.