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Baker Mayfield to Start at QB for Panthers vs. Commanders over Sam Darnold

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVAugust 13, 2022

Baker Mayfield (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Baker Mayfield will serve as the Carolina Panthers' starting quarterback for their preseason opener against the Washington Commanders on Saturday, the team announced.

Joseph Person of The Athletic reported Mayfield will play the first series or two (six to eight plays) and then Sam Darnold, the other member of the team's quarterback competition, will take over the offense for the same amount of time.

The situation has seemingly been trending in Mayfield's favor since he was acquired from the Cleveland Browns in an early July trade, and drawing the start Saturday is another sign pointing in that direction.

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said last week the team wouldn't make any declarations until after the second preseason game against the New England Patriots at the earliest, though.

"I'm not putting a timetable on the quarterback position until after we get back from the Patriots week," Rhule told reporters. "The Patriots week is a true litmus test for us. That will really show us where guys are."

Mayfield showed occasional signs of living up to the expectations that come with being the No. 1 overall pick across four years with the Browns, but his production was inconsistent.

The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner posted a 26-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2020, but that mark dipped to 17-13 during his final year in Cleveland.

Darnold, who was picked two slots after Mayfield in the 2018 draft, arrived to Carolina from the New York Jets last offseason. He threw more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (nine) across 12 appearances in 2021.

As a whole, the Panthers posted the worst passer rating in the NFL last season (68.5) as the trio of Darnold, Cam Newton and PJ Walker combined for 14 TDs and 21 INTs.

With Rhule seemingly entering the season on the hot seat, he's likely going to want a fresh option under center, which is another reason Mayfield might have the inside track on the job.

A few solid performances over the next couple of exhibition contests should lock in his place atop the Panthers' quarterback depth chart.

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