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Panthers HC Won't Decide Between Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold Before Preseason Game 2

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVAugust 6, 2022

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule insisted Saturday that he doesn't plan on naming a starting quarterback any earlier than after the Aug. 19 preseason game against the New England Patriots.

According to ESPN's David Newton, Rhule said: "I'm not putting a timetable on the quarterback position until after we get back from the Patriots week. The Patriots week is a true litmus test for us. That will really show us where guys are."

Veterans Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold are in the midst of a battle for the starting quarterback job, plus rookie third-round pick Matt Corral may also be in the mix.

Although Rhule left the door open for naming a starter after the Panthers' second preseason game, he also made it clear that he won't force a decision if nobody has separated by that point.

Mayfield has to be considered the favorite to win the job since Carolina acquired him from the Cleveland Browns for a conditional 2024 fifth-round draft pick last month.

The 27-year-old Mayfield was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, and he has had an up-and-down career thus far.

His high point occurred in 2020, when he completed 62.8 percent of his passes for 3,563 yards, 26 touchdowns and a career-low eight interceptions. Mayfield also went 11-5 as a starter and led the Browns to their first playoff berth since 2002.

With Mayfield at the helm, the Browns even defeated the rival Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card Round of the playoffs.

Expectations were high entering 2021, but Mayfield and the Browns disappointed. He went just 6-8 for a team that finished 8-9 overall, completing 60.5 percent of his passing attempts for 3,010 yards, 17 touchdowns and 13 picks.

Mayfield suffered an injury to his non-throwing shoulder early in the season, however, which may have adversely impacted his play. He underwent offseason surgery and looks to be fully healthy entering 2022.

The Browns parted ways with Mayfield after acquiring Deshaun Watson in a blockbuster trade with the Houston Texans.

Darnold was the third overall pick in the same draft that saw Mayfield go No. 1, and he has enjoyed far less success than Mayfield.

After three subpar seasons with the New York Jets, Darnold was traded to Carolina last offseason for second-, fourth- and sixth-round picks.

Darnold didn't fare much better in his first season with the Panthers, going 4-7 as a starter and completing 59.9 percent of his passes for 2,527 yards, nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He has thrown more picks than touchdowns in each of the past two seasons and is just 17-32 as a starter in four seasons.

Corral seems more likely to begin his NFL career as the third quarterback or perhaps the backup if Darnold gets cut, but he may be the long-term answer for Carolina.

He is the most athletic quarterback out of the trio, having rushed for 614 yards and 11 touchdowns at Ole Miss last season. Corral also threw for 3,349 yards, 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions, resulting in a seventh-place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting.

The first major opportunity for every Panthers quarterback to prove themselves will come Aug. 13 when they face the Washington Commanders in their preseason opener.

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