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Panthers not expecting Bryce Young to play against Seahawks; Andy Dalton next man up

Carolina Panthers quarterback Andy Dalton warms up before a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sept. 10 in Atlanta.  (Tribune News Service)
Mike Kaye Charlotte Observer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Andy Dalton could have a pretty big role within the Panthers’ offense Sunday when the team heads to Seattle to face the Seahawks.

With rookie starting quarterback Bryce Young, who didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday, dealing with an ankle injury, the Panthers are monitoring his status ahead of the Week 3 matchup. If Young can’t play, Dalton would get the call to start.

“For me, I’m just preparing the same way I prepare every week,” Dalton said Thursday. “We’ll see how it goes as the week goes on. But, with Bryce down right now, I’m getting the reps and preparing like I do every week.”

But even if Dalton isn’t the starting quarterback against the Seahawks, the veteran could still see the field quite often this weekend.

On Monday, Dalton lined up for a pair of short-yardage situations against the New Orleans Saints. The first appearance resulted in a false start penalty by right guard Cade Mays, while the second — a lateral — ended up securing Carolina a fresh set of downs.

“Andy’s a very experienced QB, winning QB — we think (the short-yardage package) adds a little element of mystery and surprise, and keeps defenses off-balanced,” coach Frank Reich said Wednesday. “ ’Why are they bringing this guy in?’ I’ve done that in past years, in other offenses with other quarterbacks.”

Reich previously used quarterback sneaks with a backup quarterback in Indianapolis in 2020.

With a 39-year-old Philip Rivers as his starting quarterback, Reich decided to use 6-foot-4, 235-pound passer Jacoby Brissett under center in short-yardage settings.

Brissett ended up converting nine first downs and three rushing touchdowns on 17 runs. He also threw eight times for two completions that led to 17 passing yards.

“We could do more than one thing,” Reich said, referencing his success with Brissett. “And I think that’s what Andy gives us. It’s not like you’re just bringing a guy in to do one thing. He can do multiple things.”

While Dalton isn’t known for his physical style of play, he is significantly bigger than Young. With the rookie quarterback standing 5-foot-10 and 204 pounds, Dalton — at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds — serves as a more imposing force within a short-yardage pile.

To his credit, Dalton has embraced the role, even if it means plunging into a bunch of massive bodies in the trenches.

“Get some action, get to be part of the game,” Dalton said. “And it was effective on one of them last week, like to think it would have been on the first one, too. So, it’s fun to have a role and be part of it.”

Reich deflected on Wednesday when asked if the Dalton package was due to Young’s diminutive size. But the logic would be sound if that were the case, especially as the head coach has had success with a bigger backup quarterback in short-yardage situations.

Dalton is also no stranger to scrambles and running the ball. He’s amassed 1,465 rushing yards and 22 rushing touchdowns during his 13-year career. But his ability to pass the ball makes him a threat under center as well.

Dalton, in theory, could line up for a short-yardage sneak, but end up holding onto the ball and catching the defense by surprise with an outlet pass, setting up a much bigger gain. Dalton has thrown for 38,150 yards and 244 touchdowns in his career, more than Reich and Panthers quarterbacks coach Josh McCown had combined in their long NFL careers.

Offensive coordinator Thomas Brown thinks Dalton’s career shows he can handle the role and be successful.

“I think, one, he’s been really good in the past when it comes to short-yardage,” Brown said. “We talk about trying to find matchups and put guys in the right spots — it’s kind of one situation that comes up when you talk about (Dalton). But also, from a defensive standpoint, instead — not saying we’ll never explore wildcat (formation) at times — it forces the defense to play ‘true rules ball,’ because he can throw the football really well — obviously, playing true drop-back quarterback.

“So it kind of does a really good job of marrying those two things: his success in the past, but also how we operate overall offensively on short-yardage (situations).”

Whether Dalton is leading the charge on Sunday, or lining up for a play (or five), he should have a game-day role — beyond backup quarterback — against the Seahawks. If he can take advantage of his playing time, the listless Panthers offense could possibly find a spark after a miserable start.

“I’m just going to operate like I know I can,” Dalton said. “I think for me, it just starts with being myself and pushing guys, pushing the tempo, pushing everything we need to do to give ourselves a chance.“