Still an open competition for Panthers QB 1 spot

Still an open competition for Panthers QB 1 spot
August 10
14:39 2022

I am not sure if Panthers head coach Matt Rhule is just posturing to keep opposing teams guessing, but he says he won’t make a “major decision” about any position battles, including quarterback, until after the Aug. 19 preseason game against the New England Patriots.

For me, that is a total surprise because after trading for former Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Baker Mayfield, I felt he was going to be the obvious week-1 starter, especially based on how Sam Darnold performed last season.

“I’m not putting a timetable on the quarterback position until after we get back from the Patriots week,” said Rhule after Saturday’s scrimmage. “The Patriots week is a true litmus test for us. That will really show us where guys are.”

Based upon the reports that I have read, neither Mayfield nor Darnold have really separated themselves from the other based on their performance thus far during training camp, although Mayfield has performed slightly better. Both guys have made some ill-advised throws, along with turning the ball over by throwing interceptions.

All I can do is wonder why Mayfield has not taken advantage of this situation that was tailor made for him to walk into. Darnold has done nothing over his four-year career that would have given him the advantage over Mayfield. Even though Darnold started 11 games for the Panthers last season, it was very underwhelming, only throwing for 2,527 yards with nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Before Darnold put on a Panthers jersey, he underperformed for the New York Jets for three seasons after being taken third overall in the 2018 NFL draft. Many thought a change of scenery out of the limelight of New York is just what Darnold needed to unlock his full potential. The injury to Christian McCaffrey didn’t help his case, but Darnold definitely didn’t do enough on the field to warrant starting this season, which is why I felt it was a foregone conclusion that Mayfield would take over.

Mayfield was taken first overall in that same 2018 draft. Unlike Darnold, Mayfield has enjoyed some success on the football field as he has taken his team to the playoffs and has won a playoff game. Mayfield had a down season last year due to injuries, but I felt he would return to form with a healthy offseason.

Another reason I thought Mayfield would be successful in Carolina was that he wouldn’t have to worry about looking over his shoulder as he would pretty much be guaranteed a starting position. The fact that he has not solidified his spot as QB1 has me wondering how the coaches are viewing the competition between the two quarterbacks.

Apparently, Mayfield and Darnold have been splitting first team reps with the team. I think we all know that Darnold is not the answer as the starter, so I am confused as to why Rhule would have both guys splitting reps with the starting offense. We have seen what Darnold has to offer, so why not let Mayfield soak up all the reps in order to have a better rhythm with the starting unit?

According to sources around the team, Mayfield has outplayed Darnold so far. He still has some adjusting to do to have a better chemistry, not only with his teammates, but also with the coaching staff.

“Coming off three of his best practices, Mayfield had a steady day throwing to a mix of first and second team targets,” said Ellis Williams of the Charlotte Observer. “The team did not practice with much tempo. There were no two-minute drills or no-huddle situations. So far during camp, Mayfield has played noticeably better when the reps reflect game situations.”

I am not saying that I know football better than Matt Rhule because I know I don’t. However, if I am trying to get the best out of Mayfield, I would want him to take all the snaps during camp. Rhule has stated exactly what he is looking for in a starter and it seems that Mayfield is closer to that standard than Darnold.

“We try to look at it straight across the board over time. It comes down to who can function within the scheme and has a great scheme mastery, who has production, who leads the team, who takes care of the football, and then who manages the situations. Great quarterbacks show up in the red zone. They show up in two-minute. They show up on third down. So we’re going to look at that over a long time and see, but those are the areas we’re looking at,” said Rhule. 

The Panthers’ quarterback situation has been in flux ever since Cam Newton left the first time back in 2020. I think with the addition of Mayfield and some good luck with health regarding the skill position players, the Panthers may have found their answer at quarterback.

With a healthy McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Robbie Anderson at their best, the season could be a good one for Carolina. Everyone is expecting them to be a bottom-of-the-barrel team anyway, so they could shock a lot of teams with some good play by Mayfield at the quarterback position. I for one think he has the tools and the motivation to do so.

I am not sure why so many people have written Mayfield off as though he isn’t an above average starter in this league.  I don’t think he is one of the upper echelon guys at the position, but I think he is definitely good enough to be the reason a team wins games and is not just a game manager. 

This year could potentially be a lot better than people think for the Panthers.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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