CHARLOTTE — Bryce Young certainly looks ready for the regular season as a passer.
His sliding? Well, that could use some help.
The No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft completed 7 of 12 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown in his final tuneup for Week 1, but the Carolina Panthers lost 26-17 to the Detroit Lions on Friday night.
Young looked sharp leading scoring drives on his only two possessions, the second culminating in his first TD pass — a 16-yard strike to veteran wide receiver Adam Thielen giving Carolina a 10-0 lead. The heady 22-year-old rookie from Alabama also showed superior pocket awareness, scrambling three times for 21 yards and two first downs.
But one of his runs ended awkwardly with Young essentially squatting down on the turf rather than sliding to avoid an approaching defender.
“I never played baseball so I never really learned that,” said an embarrassed Young. “But yeah, a lot of room for improvement. I can’t disagree with that.”
Panthers coach Frank Reich said the team needs to work with Young on his sliding so that he doesn’t expose himself to injury. However, he likes what he saw in Young’s ability to sense pressure and make plays.
“He has that instinct, right?” Reich said. “He has that in him. He has that make-you-miss quality even when a guy has him dead to rights. We’ve seen little snippets of that in practice. He has that stop-start hesitation move that is hard to figure out.”
Young led a 14-play, 52-yard drive to open the game, resulting in a 41-yard field goal by Eddy Pineiro. A pass interference penalty on the Lions extended Carolina’s second drive. Young took advantage when he found Thielen, who beat third-string nickelback Will Harris near the left sideline for the score.
Thielen finished with four catches for 48 yards after shaking off an early back injury.
Young credited his coaches and teammates for helping get him ready to start the season opener Sept. 10 season at Atlanta.
“Obviously I haven’t played in a regular season game before and it will present challenges I haven’t faced yet but I’m excited for that,” Young said.
The Lions rested starting quarterback Jared Goff.
Former Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater proved more than capable under center, leading four scoring drives for Detroit (2-1) in the first half. He finished 13 of 22 for 178 yards, including a 70-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass to rookie Antoine Green in the closing seconds of the first half.
“He’ll only get better the more he’s able to be around our system,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “It was good to see. He was at a good spot, he was in a flow, he had great command of the offense and it’s just about being on time and on task under our system. I thought that he made some good throws.”
Green, the team’s seventh-round pick from UNC, finished with three catches for 97 yards.
“That catch that he had where he ran through the dagger for the touchdown was big and that was a hell of a throw by Teddy,” Campbell said. “It was encouraging. It was what we needed to see.”
Craig Reynolds ran for 41 yards and a 5-yard touchdown as the Lions built a 20-10 halftime lead. Rookie cornerback Steven Gilmore returned a Jake Luton interception for a touchdown with 3:01 left to seal the win.
Andy Dalton made his preseason debut for the Panthers (0-3) after being sidelined with a back injury. He finished 6 of 11 for 60 yards and an interception in the end zone.
Carolina opens the regular season at Atlanta on Sept 10.