Baker Mayfield vs. Sam Darnold: Is Carolina Panthers’ beginning QB job Mayfield’s to lose?

Baker Mayfield vs. Sam Darnold: Is Carolina Panthers’ beginning QB job Mayfield’s to lose?


SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Extensive receiver Rashard Higgins held tightly to his 11-month-old son behind a golf cart whereas discussing the “open” competitors between Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold for the Carolina Panthers‘ beginning quarterback job.

He joked that younger Sevin acquired his title — with a tweak to the spelling — as a result of seven follows six, the uniform variety of Mayfield, his teammate and good friend in Cleveland the previous 4 seasons.

In different phrases, if anybody has purpose to drag for Mayfield, it is Higgins.

However when requested who he believes will begin Week 1 in opposition to the Cleveland Browns, the participant nicknamed “Hollywood” did not supply any readability.

“Whoever makes that call, it should be a very good one, so we’ll see,” he stated with a smile.

That is the corporate line.

Whether or not it is Mayfield, acquired final month in a commerce with the Browns, or Darnold, acquired final yr in a commerce with the New York Jets, the Panthers imagine the competitors between the No. 1 and No. 3 general picks of the 2018 draft will make them higher.

Whether or not you imagine the competitors is actually “open” or that is Mayfield’s job to lose — as many across the league imagine — does not matter, notably to third-year coach Matt Rhule, whose future would possibly rely upon the result.

He states virtually every day that this is not a one-day competitors and it doubtless will take time to resolve.

“I have been on file with what I believe,” stated Rhule, who opened coaching camp saying efficiency will resolve the result. “I’ve simply acquired to fret in regards to the guys, and hopefully they be ok with the way in which we’re doing it.”

They appear to, and thus far, neither has carried out properly sufficient to distance himself from the opposite.

“Every thing is extraordinarily clear,” Mayfield stated. “They’re telling us collectively how they’re dealing with it. It is not being stated to at least one particular person and Sam’s listening to different issues. It is proper there in entrance of us, clear and concise.”

The preseason competitors plan

You realize the routine in the event you’ve adopted the primary week of camp. Darnold works with the primary workforce someday whereas Mayfield works with the second. The following day, they flip-flop. The following, they break up time with the starters. It is about as 50-50 as you may get.

As Rhule defined to his quarterbacks, “We will not essentially all the time be truthful, however we now have to be simply.”

Followers have already got a favourite. Earlier than the primary apply, as Mayfield and Darnold walked collectively to the Wofford School fields, the chants overwhelming had been in Mayfield’s favor.

Since then, they’ve arrived individually, however Mayfield nonetheless will get extra chants, and louder.

For now, neither appears involved. Every is targeted on getting a greater grasp of offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s system and fixing flaws which have them competing for a job as an alternative of proudly owning one.

Rhule stated he likes what he has seen, notably from Mayfield after solely two weeks within the system.

“We take a look at guys on daily basis,” he stated. “His exams come again within the tons of. He is a professionals professional.”

The lacking hyperlink to turning into a contender?

The final time the Panthers had this sort of an audition was in 2003, when longtime backup Jake Delhomme was introduced in to compete with veteran Rodney Peete. Peete began the opener, however Delhomme took over within the second half and led the workforce to the Tremendous Bowl.

New Panthers guard Austin Corbett understands what it means to solidify the quarterback place, having received a Tremendous Bowl final season with the Los Angeles Rams after they traded for Matthew Stafford. He additionally is aware of the potential of Mayfield, since he performed with the quarterback in Cleveland his first season and a half as a professional.

Corbett says whoever emerges between Mayfield and Darnold has the potential to make Carolina a contender.

“Their degree of competitors goes to push one another to the following degree of efficiency,” he stated.

Whereas not enjoying favorites, Corbett stated the vitality Mayfield brings is “actually unmatched.”

“A real love of competitors that he pours out into all the things,” he stated. “He beats himself up over minor errors.”

Darnold, Corbett stated, is extra laid again. He seldom appears upset.

“However they have been jelling collectively thus far, serving to one another out and getting alongside simply wonderful,” he stated. “They simply each need this workforce to be probably the most profitable it may be.”

Purple zone success the important thing to beginning?

Profitable is what Rhule needs greater than something after going 5-11 and 5-12 his first two seasons. Inconsistent quarterback play (2020 with Teddy Bridgewater and final season with Darnold and Cam Newton) is an enormous purpose he hasn’t received.

A lot of that inconsistency has been within the pink zone, as solely 42% of the Panthers’ pink zone performs have been passes in two seasons below Rhule, which ranks thirty first within the NFL. Mayfield appeared to create the primary separation within the battle on Monday when he threw three landing passes to none for Darnold contained in the 20.

Mayfield continued to impress Tuesday along with his willingness to take pictures downfield, one thing Darnold hasn’t achieved properly as a professional (his 27% completion charge on throws at the least 20 yards downfield ranks final within the NFL over the previous 4 seasons; Mayfield ranks 18th at 42%). Mayfield’s 50-yard completion to Robbie Anderson drew applause from teammates and followers.

That Mayfield led the Browns to an 11-5 file and a playoff win in 2020 additionally offers him extra credibility. Darnold has gone 6-17 the previous two seasons and is 17-32 because the starter general.

However thus far in camp, Rhule has handled each quarterbacks like they’re 0-0, and they’re serving to one another out in conferences and on the sphere.

“Clearly, we each wish to be the beginning quarterback for this workforce,” Darnold stated. “That is obvious. However on the finish of the day, it is not me or Baker making that call.

“That sort of makes it simpler for us to root for one another.”


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