Bryce Young developing into a leader for Panthers in Year 2

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bryce Young sprinted toward the left corner of the end zone on Wednesday after his last pass of the Carolina Panthers' offseason workouts went for a touchdown on a crossing route by Jonathan Mingo.

There was pure elation.

It was almost like last season never happened.

In many ways for Young, last season doesn't matter. He has an uncanny ability to compartmentalize things in a way that allows him to enter his second NFL season with optimism that he can still be the player who was worthy of being the No. 1 pick of the 2023 draft despite the kind of rookie year that has destroyed others in his position.

Young credits that in part to his past. He graduated from the University of Alabama in three years with a degree in psychology. His father was a therapist in the mental health field for 20 years. His mother was a special education teacher, and his grandfather was a psychologist.

His experiences with them helped keep a dreadful rookie season in perspective as he starts fresh under first-year NFL head coach Dave Canales.

"It's helped me through my whole life,'' Young told ESPN. "The good, the bad, indifferent; making sure that myself, internally, I'm OK. Luckily, I've been very conscious of that my whole life, so I've had a lot of practice compartmentalizing things and trying to have healthy habits.''

Backup quarterback Andy Dalton understands. When asked what makes Young different from others who were drafted No. 1 and failed, Dalton deadpanned: "Just the type of person that Bryce is.''

"The best thing that you can do is have the experience of being out there,'' Dalton continued. "Bryce got that last year. This year, we're still unknown. We won't know what's going to happen. But it's set up for Bryce to take a big jump.''

Young should benefit from the offseason additions of wide receivers Diontae Johnson and Xavier Legette (Round 1 draft pick), guards Robert Hunt and Damien Lewis, and a couple of offensive weapons from Texas in running back Jonathon Brooks (Round 2) and tight end Ja'Tavion Sanders (Round 4).

He has also taken on a larger leadership role, according to Dalton. That's been intentional, as Young has felt more comfortable on the field to assert himself and has felt more responsible off the field to increase his role in the community.

One of his offseason goals beyond building a relationship with Canales and learning a new system was launching his "9 Young Foundation'' that focuses on mental health awareness for teenagers and adolescents.

Young, who said he met with the team's mental health clinician last season, wants mental health professionals to be there for others the way they've been there for him.

"As bad as last year was, and it was awful, do I think having a background in mental health and family helped him? One thousand percent,'' said Young's father, Craig.

Young's ability to maintain a positive attitude through an NFL-worst 2-15 season, during which he ranked near the bottom in most major categories for quarterbacks, made Canales a good fit for the quarterback because of the positive approach he takes to teaching -- and football overall.

Young talked at the beginning of offseason workouts about the "calming presence'' Canales has had.

"It's constructive,'' he said. "If you miss something or do something wrong it gives you something tangible to [say], 'Let's get our base in order.' It's something you can think about and apply. It's been really good for me.''

He has shown that throughout the offseason. Young no longer has to rely on dink-and-dunk passes that led to a league-worst 5.5 yards per completion last season. He hasn't hesitated to go deep to what he calls his "new juice'' in Johnson and Legette, who can create separation and become easy targets.

That was evident during Tuesday's mandatory minicamp, during which Young connected with Johnson in the back of the end zone for a touchdown on a play that initially looked bleak.

"He's making his reads quicker,'' said Johnson, who was acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers in large part because of his ability to create separation. "Just having more receivers out there that can win [against defensive backs] gives him more confidence everybody is going to be in the right spot.''

But it all starts with the relationship Young has with Canales, who last season as the offensive coordinator with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers helped resurrect the career of quarterback Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 pick of the 2018 draft.

Before that, he helped quarterbacks Geno Smith and Russell Wilson have career seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.

"It's instilling confidence in him, knowing that he's giving him the keys to this offense,'' Dalton said. "We're going to see Bryce do things he didn't do last year just because of the experience. We're already seeing it right now.''

Outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney said the entire team needs Young's energy, which some felt was lacking last season, or at least seemed to be because the 22-year-old quarterback is so quiet.

"We're going to be all right,'' Clowney said. "He's making plays, he's making plays. He just ain't no talker. I played with Deshaun Watson. He wasn't no talker, either. But he could play. On Sundays you never knew he didn't talk.''

Young, often described as a quiet leader, understands what Clowney meant.

"I'm going to be true to who I am. I'm not going to be somebody I'm not,'' he said. "But also I feel like it's my responsibility to not [say], 'Hey, this is what I'm going to do. This is what I'm going to say.' This isn't a speech I practice in the mirror so it has to be said.

"It's my responsibility to fill in the gaps and make sure if we're in a spot where the energy is low, it's my responsibility to get it up. If it's too high, it's my responsibility to make sure we're focused and locked in.''

Running back Miles Sanders agreed with Dalton that the pieces are in place for Young to show big improvement.

"Big jump, for sure,'' he said. "I just told him to grow every day, take it one day at a time, don't try to fake none, just be yourself every day.''

That's what Young has done with the help of his family and background. He is confident that eventually the results will come as they always have.

"I'm far from perfect,'' Young said. "We all have our struggles and things, and we have good and bad days. But it's like any season, it's important during a time when there's a lot going on and a lot of stressful situations, knowing that's a time to make sure I really don't lose sight of things mentally.''