March 1, 2024

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Panthers to-do list for Dave Canales and Dan Morgan: Getting help for Bryce Young is priority

Panthers to-do list for Dave Canales and Dan Morgan: Getting help for Bryce Young is priority

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Four days after announcing the hiring of Dave Canales, the Carolina Panthers still have not officially introduced their new head coach.

It will likely be a few more days before Canales' introductory press conference. This is a busy time for the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator.

Canales and recently promoted general manager Dan Morgan are expected to attend Senior Bowl practices this week in Mobile, Ala. The format of the All-Star Game has changed: all underclassmen are eligible, whereas previously, fourth-year rookies were the only underclassmen invited to Mobile.

But Canales and Morgan have more to offer than just a first-hand look at the more than 110 players in Senior Bowl practices. The athlete He highlights five things on the to-do list for the Panthers' new decision-makers, who were teammates for eight years with the Seattle Seahawks.

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Assemble the coaching staff

This is Canales' first job, and it could get tough as far as defensive coordinator Ejiro Eveiro is concerned. The 43-year-old Evero was passed over for Carolina's head coach position, but the Panthers want him to stay on as defensive coordinator.

Ivero held a second interview for the Seahawks' vacant head coach job on Saturday, and multiple teams are interested in hiring him as defensive coordinator, according to a league source. But Ivero remains under contract with the Panthers, who can prevent him from interviewing for sideline positions — and he also has him with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and New York Giants. The Panthers ranked fourth in total defense under Evero, who also oversaw a top-10 defense in 2022 with the Denver Broncos, who, like Carolina, made a coaching change during the season. With the Panthers facing a major rebuilding process, Evero may be tempted to go to a contending team to better enhance his coaching chances.

Canales is expected to rely heavily on his connections in Tampa Bay and Seattle to fill out his staff. Bucs receivers coach Brad Idzik, who came to Tampa with the Canales from Seattle, is viewed as the front-runner for the Panthers' offensive coordinator job. The Panthers have asked to speak with Seahawks assistant Tracy Smith about the special teams job, and Nate Carroll — the son of former Seattle coach Pete Carroll — has also been mentioned as a strong prospect in Charlotte.

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But the key is Evero. If Canales has to retool the defensive staff, it could be a difficult process given Panthers owner David Tepper's reputation for tackling and the team's bleak outlook for 2024.

Ejiro Eveiro interviewed with other teams but remained under contract with Carolina for another year. (Photo courtesy of Carolina Panthers)

Front office restructuring completed

Well, technically, that's within Tepper's scope. The front office's next move has been in the works for some time. As previously reported in this space, Tepper plans to bring on Kansas City Chiefs vice president of football operations Brandt Tilis as salary cap/contract executive to replace Samir Slimane and serve as a buffer between Canales/Morgan and ownership.

The model has been a success in San Francisco, where John Lynch is president of football operations/general manager (the same job title as Morgan) and Parag Marath is the 49ers' president of corporate operations and executive vice president of football operations. So, what's holding you back? Well, the Chiefs made their Super Bowl run, as they always do.

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But it's worth noting some other Tepper-related personnel moves. The athlete Friday confirmed this Canales does not reserve Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor or offensive line coach James Campin, who had a big impact with the Teppers after strongly encouraging owner Frank Reich to stick with them from Matt Rhule's staff. Differing loyalties led to dysfunction and the emergence of a “Hunger Games” culture, in which assistants would undermine other coaches and make suggestions to management, which ultimately culminated in the firing of Reich, linebackers coach Josh McCown, and running backs coach Duss Staley.

Look for at least one remains in the attack crew. Senior assistant Jim Caldwell, who participated in interviews during the Panthers' prospect searches, is expected to be retained, according to a league source. Caldwell, the former coach of the Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts, could be an asset to Canales, who has only one year of experience as a full-time coordinator.

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The chaotic nature of the Panthers' season affected the development of Young, whose rookie season saw a coaching change and three turnovers in offensive play. Hayden Hurst said Young had “too many votes” in his ear during a year in which the No. 1 pick finished rated as the NFL's worst passer and was next in line with a 59.8 completion percentage (just ahead of the Tennessee Titans' rookie). Will Levis).

Porous pass protection and a lack of receivers who can break away from coverage also contributed greatly to the rookie Young's struggles. But the coaches' inability to get on the same page — even regarding the depth of Young's regressions — didn't help matters.

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Enter Canales, whose last two quarterbacks won Comeback Player of the Year (Geno Smith) or were finalists for the award (Baker Mayfield). It will be a different dynamic for Canales and Young, who will need more coaching than the veteran Smith does, Smith said Friday. But the Seahawks quarterback said Canales has a knack for getting the best out of his players.

“His process is elite. That's something that's more important to me than results,” Smith said during a conference call. “Having an elite process and understanding how things get done is absolutely critical, especially when you go to a new team. Dave has a great understanding of himself, and what he wants to accomplish. He'll learn the players he's coaching, get to know them as men, get to know what motivates them, and then he'll work from there.”

Bryce Young threw for 2,877 yards, 11 TDs and 10 interceptions in 16 starts as a starter with the Panthers. (Jim Dedmon/USA Today)

Decide where they stand on Brian Burns

You may have heard: The Panthers do not have a first-round pick this year. This has probably also come across your social media feed: This pick now belongs to the Chicago Bears and is the No. 1 overall pick.

So Morgan could sit back and wait to be drafted at the top of the second round, or the former Panthers linebacker could try to orchestrate a trade to get to the first round. Morgan was an assistant general manager in 2022 when Scott Fitterer rejected the Los Angeles Rams' offer of two future first-round picks and a Day 2 pick for edge rusher Burns, who at the time was in the midst of his second straight Pro Bowl season.

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The Panthers have since failed to work out a long-term deal with Burns, whose production declined significantly in 2023, when he said he was busy at times staying healthy as he and several of his defensive teammates struggled with injuries. Burns finished with eight sacks, just above his career-low of 7 1/2 in his rookie season.

Burns is a strong candidate for the franchise tag, which is expected to cost more than $20 million in '24. Morgan could opt to tag and trade Burns. The return wouldn't be close to what the Rams offered, but the Panthers would likely get a first-round pick.

Get some help from Young

This would be at the top of the list if we didn't arrange the items chronologically. Before Morgan and Canales decide if Young is an upper-tier QB — we can assume Morgan does because he was part of the brain trust that selected Young over CJ Stroud — they must first give him some better playmakers and pass hurdles to fairly evaluate him. .

Canales spent last season with Mike Evans, the Panthers' notorious hit man who became a free agent this year. Morgan and Canales don't have a direct connection to Tee Higgins, but they should also be free agents for the Bengals. The list of independent receivers also includes Michael Pittman Jr. and Gabe Davis, the Buffalo Bills' fourth-round pick in 2020 when Morgan was in Buffalo's front office under Brandon Beane.

If the Panthers are looking to add another tight end, Canales is familiar with Noah Fant, who had several big seasons in Denver before being traded to Seattle as part of the Russell Wilson trade. Fitterer failed to adequately address interior line depth last year when starting guards Brady Christensen and Austin Corbett were returning from surgeries.

The Panthers need to add a couple of linemen this offseason, and they will likely be tackles if they decide to insert Ikem Ekwonu inside. One interior guy to watch: Seattle guard Damien Lewis, a 2020 third-round pick out of LSU who moves well despite carrying 326 pounds.

(Top image by Dave Canalis: Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)