(CHARLOTTE SPORTS LIVE) — Panthers football returns TODAY and there’s a lot to look forward to.
New faces in every part of the team from the head coach, to the punter, to the last man on the roster.
But let’s start with the youngest and newest captain of the team:
The Panthers traded up for former Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. Young started for two years with the Crimson Tide.
He finished second in school history with 8,356 career passing yards and 80 touchdowns, and won the Heisman Trophy in 2021.
Young and the Panthers are taking on a rebuilding Falcons squad whose starting quarterback is Desmond Ridder.
Ridder only started four games for Atlanta in his rookie season last year, totaling 708 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions with a 63.5% completion rate.
To help Bryce Young, the Panthers drafted Ole Miss wide receiver Jonathon Mingo in the second round, added former Gamecock tight end Hayden Hurst and brought in 10-year NFL veteran Adam Thielen who was later named a captain.
Bryce Young may be QB1 in 2023, but QB1 in franchise history, Frank Reich, is now the team’s head coach.
Reich was most recently the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. After getting off to a rough start in his first year in 2018, Indianapolis recovered, becoming just the third team in league history to make the playoffs after a 1-5 start.
He made the playoffs again in 2020, but lost in the first round. Reich wouldn’t make the playoffs after that and the Colts fired him nine games into the 2022 season with a 3-8-1 start.
One the defensive side of the ball, a big question mark surrounds star linebacker Brian Burns.
There’s no word on whether the two-time pro bowler will play this Sunday amid contract negotiations. When asked about the matter Friday afternoon, Frank Reich deflected all questions to Burns and gave no updates on the money talks.
Another force to be reckoned with on the Panthers defense is new safety Vonn Bell.
He played four seasons with the New Orleans Saints before spending the last three seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Bell had a career-high four interceptions with the Bengals last season and looks to bring the same leadership and toughness to Carolina.
The Panthers will have their hands full as they look to find their identity for the 2023 season against a division rival.
Another big test awaits them in week two in the Queen City when they welcome another division foe, the New Orleans Saints, to Bank of America Stadium on Monday Night Football.