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Comparing Byrce Young's preseason debut to previous Panthers quarterbacks

Preseason games for projected starters offer a small sample size but have sometimes offered coaches enough inspiration to change the player in the top spot.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers were smacked 27-0 by the New York Jets to open their 2023 NFL preseason schedule as fans got a first look at number one overall draft pick Bryce Young.

Young played just three series, completing 4 of 6 passes for 21 yards. He was under serious pressure during his time in the game, being hit on three of his seven dropbacks. Matt Corral finished the game under center for Carolina.

While the game has no bearing on - well anything, it's a chance for fans and analysts to see how new and returning players will perform in the upcoming year. 

Comparing Young's minuscule stat line to Panthers quarterbacks' preseason debuts and expecting to come away with any similarities is a futile task, but it offers some fun insightful research into a seldom-discussed topic.

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Cam Newton (2011)

Credit: AP
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) during an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

The leading passer in Panthers history had a solid preseason debut when he helped lead the team to a win over the New York Giants to begin the 2011 campaign. Newton completed eight of 19 passes for 134 yards. He failed to connect on two sure-fire touchdown passes but did lead the team to multiple scoring drives.

Similar to Young, Newton was drafted with the top pick in that year's draft and was expected to turn around a team that finished with a dismal 2-14 record the year before. The quarterback Newton replaced, Jimmy Clausen, was showered with boos after throwing an interception early in the game as fans demanded Newton be put on the field. 

Newton easily proved why he deserved to hold the starting position in his rookie year as the preseason progressed. He went on to have a fantastic rookie season. 

Newton played 10 seasons with the Panthers, becoming the franchise's all-time leader in virtually every statistical category. He led the team to the Super Bowl in 2015 and won the MVP award that year. 

Jake Delhomme (2003)

Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme (17) is pressured by New England Patriots lineman Jarvis Green (97) in the 2nd quarter of Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, Sunday, Feb. 1, 2004. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

The first quarterback to lead the Panthers to a Super Bowl was not even the definitive choice for the starting job the year that he took the team there. 

Jake Delhomme came to Carolina through free agency in the 2003 offseason and was set for a quarterback battle with Rodney Peete, Chris Weinke, and Randy Fasani. 

In his first preseason action for the Panthers, Delhomme went just three of five for 43 yards as Carolina beat Washington 20-0. 

In the remaining preseason games, Peete proved enough to retain the starting role he held in 2002 and Delhomme was relegated to a backup role.

But just one half into the regular season, then-Panthers coach John Fox inserted Delhomme into the starting role as Carolina was down 14-0 to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Delhomme led the team to a comeback victory and permanently won the starting job.

Delhomme went on to become the all-time Panthers passing leader, before Newton showed up, and led the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2003. 

Kerry Collins (1995)

Carolina Panthers quarterback Kerry Collins drops back to pass in the NFC Championship game on Jan. 12, 1997, in Green Bay. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser)

With their first-ever draft pick, the Carolina Panthers selected Kerry Collins with the fifth pick in the 1995 NFL Draft. Collins was a highly-touted prospect out of Penn State and was tasked with running the team's offense in their inaugural season.

Despite the franchise investing heavily in Collins, he was not the undisputed starter going into the preseason. Collins entered the year in a quarterback battle with Frank Reich (now the Panthers' head coach) and Jack Trudeau. 

In the team's first-ever game, the Panthers faced the Jacksonville Jaguars - also making their franchise debut. Collins went five for nine on his passes for 53 yards. He also lost a fumble after being sacked. Reich was much more impressive, going 10 for 17 for 77 yards and tossing a touchdown, the unofficial first score in Carolina Panthers history.

Reich would hold the reigns of the offense for the first few weeks of the regular season, but Collins later got his chance to run the offense and did a formidable job. 

Collins went on to have a shaky four seasons with the Panthers before being released during the 1998 season after the team started 0-4. Less than two years later, Collins led the New York Giants to the Super Bowl and went on to have a decent career playing for multiple teams until 2011. He later said that problems with alcoholism contributed to his troubles in Carolina.

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Steve Beuerlein (1996)

Carolina Panthers quarterbcak Steve Beuerlein at Ericsson Stadium in Charlotte, Dec. 6, 1998. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

The quarterback that replaced Collins in 1998 bided his time in a backup role before getting the top spot. Steve Beuerlein was a journeyman backup quarterback that won a Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys and had just one season where he started more than half of a season's games (with the Phoenix Cardinals in 1993) when he came to the Panthers in 1996.

He was brought in as a backup under Collins and served in that role for a few years. In his first preseason game with the Panthers, Beuerlein threw two touchdowns and helped the team to a dominant win over the Bears. He would get decent playing time behind Collins and emerged as a reliable option when the top signal-caller went down.

After Collins' release, Beuerlein stepped in and performed well. Beuerlein passed for over 4400 yards in 1999, a franchise record that still stands, and was selected to the pro bowl. He stayed in the starting role until he was released after the 2000 season, much to the chagrin of the team's fanbase, who had grown to adore Beuerlein.

Other notables

Credit: AP
Carolina Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) plays against the New Orleans Saints during an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Baker Mayfield (2022): Completed four of seven passes for 45 yards against the Washington Commanders. Mayfield was brought in after being released by the Cleveland Browns, who drafted him with the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He had an abysmal time with the Panthers and was released before the end of the season. Was brought in after 

Sam Darnold (2021): Completed one of two passes for 16 yards. Similar to Mayfield, a former top 2018 draft pick that was picked up in free agency by the Panthers. Spent two years with Carolina with limited success, holding an 8-9 record as a starter.

Jimmy Clausen (2010): Completed eight of 15 passes for 80 yards with one interception. Clausen was drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft and immediately inserted into the starting role after Delhomme's exit in the preceding offseason. Clausen threw only three touchdowns in the regular season as the Panthers went 2-14.

Rodney Peete (2002): Completed five of eight passes for 32 yards. Entered the preseason in a battle for the top spot with 2001's starter Chris Weinke and rookie Randy Fasani. Weinke performed poorly enough in the preseason to lose the job to Peete in John Fox's first year as head coach. Fasani appeared in just four games, threw zero touchdowns, three interceptions, and never played again in a regular season game after 2002.

Chris Weinke (2001): Passed for 108 yards and a touchdown. Weinke was selected in the fifth round of the 2001 NFL Draft and placed in a quarterback battle with Jeff Lewis. Weinke was given the starting job and guided the Panthers to a 1-15 record, the worst record in franchise history. Lewis had some buzz surrounding him but never played in 2001 and finished his career with zero touchdown passes.

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Young's story yet to be told

Credit: AP
Carolina Panthers quarterback Bryce Young passes the ball during an NFL preseason football game, Aug. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Few people will remember Young's performance on Saturday. Not many people remember any preseason games. Young still has a lot of time to create a positive narrative for his career. The Panthers are hoping he can bring championships to Charlotte. 

The Panthers' next preseason game is at home against the Detroit Lions on Saturday, Aug. 19.

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