Coach Frank Reich says QB Bryce Young's ceiling will improve if Panthers find a way to protect him

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Bryce Young has been making steady progress for the Carolina Panthers, resulting in his first NFL victory this past Sunday.

Coach Frank Reich believes Young’s production will improve dramatically moving forward if the Panthers can do a better job of protecting their franchise QB.

“Absolutely I think his ceiling goes further up,” Reich said.

The No. 1 overall pick continues to face plenty of pressure. He has been sacked 22 times in six starts for the Panthers (1-6), including six in Sunday’s 15-13 victory over Houston. It marked the fourth time in six games that Young has been sacked four or more times.

Reich called Sunday's performance unacceptable, adding “that was just too many sacks.”

Reich said after the game he initially thought Young held on to the ball too long on a couple of plays against the Texans, but changed his mind after watching game film.

“There was nowhere to get it out,” said Reich, a former NFL quarterback. “The one or two times I thought he could get it out, there was nowhere to get it out to.”

The Panthers have to do a better job of helping Young. He certainly could benefit from better blocking up front, but his receivers also need create more separation from defenders. And it would help if the Panthers could establish the ground game, something they've struggled to do in averaging just 90.3 yards per game.

“There's no one thing,” Reich said. “There are four different reasons why he got sacked six times. We have to get that cleaned up.”

Along with being sacked a lot, the 5-foot-10, 205-pound Young is taking plenty of shots in the pocket that could eventually take a toll. Opposing defenses have had 46 QB hits on him, with the Texans getting a season-high 10.

Young said Wednesday that everyone on the Panthers offense is taking ownership of the problem, but said it all starts with him.

“When you see sacks, you immediately think ‘What is the line doing or not doing?’” Young said. “Some of those sacks are on me. I can do a better job of getting the ball out and moving throughout the pocket. Some of those are coverage sacks. And that is me making sure I can do a better job of getting through the reads and getting through the progressions and checking the ball down. And sometimes I just need to throw the ball away.”

Young is averaging fewer than 200 yards passing per game. He has seven touchdown passes and four interceptions.

On Sunday, he faces an Indianapolis Colts team that is tied for 12th in the league in sacks (21), but has struggled overall.

Indianapolis has allowed at least 37 points in each of its past three games and is last in the league in points allowed per game (28.6), so Young will have an opportunity to build off his first victory.

The good news for the Panthers is they're getting healthier on the offensive line, with veteran guard Austin Corbett returning this past weekend after missing the first six games while recovering from a torn ACL.

That means Carolina's offensive line has four of its five starters from last season back on the field.

“We all just have to try to find ways individually to get better and try to lower that (sack) number,” Young said.

NOTES: The Panthers had eight players miss practice on Wednesday, including wide receiver D.J. Chark, who sat out with an elbow injury. However, safety Vonn Bell returned to practice after missing the past two games.