SPARTANBURG, SC – The Carolina Panthers won’t make what coach Matt Rhule called a “big decision” at any position, especially between quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnolduntil after the Aug. 19 preseason game at New England.
Even then, Rhule might not make a decision unless one is clearly separated from the other after two joint practices in Foxborough, Massachusetts, and the game.
“I’m not putting a timetable on the quarterback situation until we get back from the Patriots a week,” Rhule said after Saturday’s scrimmage in which neither quarterback had a decisive advantage. “Patriots week is a real litmus test for us. That will really show us where the guys are at.”
Meanwhile, the Panthers may have lost a defensive end Marquis Haynes for a long period of time with a left knee injury suffered while working with the first team. Carolina was already thin at that position and made a run at a veteran Carlos Dunlapwho signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Jason Pierre-Paul, 33, is the most impressive free agent edge rusher available. He had 9.5 sacks for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020 but dropped to 2.5 last season.
As for the quarterbacks, Mayfield began the scrimmage working with the first team in red zone drills and was 1-for-3 on a drive that ended with a touchdown run by Chuba Hubbard. Darnold threw a touchdown pass to a fullback Giovanni Ricci on playing his first red belt drills while working with the second team.
The two reps took equal first and second team reps during the two-hour practice that focused on game situations. Mayfield finished 14-for-21 with a long touchdown pass and one interception. Darnold was 20-of-28 with a touchdown and an interception.
Both interceptions came with the quarterback trying to force the ball into tight coverage. Corner back Mary Elizabeth Hartsfield stripped the ball from the hands of DJ Moore on a Mayfield pass that was thrown slightly behind the receiver.
Rhule noted that “the penalty put Baker behind the chains, so he had to force the ball behind the field.”
Darnold was selected over the recently acquired cornerback Hayes Tea near the sideline when he tried to push a pass while scrambling to the right.
Rhule said it was tough to immediately judge how the quarterbacks performed because of “the difference between who you’re playing with and who you’re playing with.”
“The disappointing thing is that every guy was intercepted,” said Rhule. “We have to protect the football.”
Rhule was also disappointed about that wide receiver Rashard Higgins he reached the ball across the goal line rather than running into the end zone after a Mayfield reception. Higgins also performed his patented celebration in which he rolls the football as if it were the red carpet and then walks down the imaginary carpet.
The coach then had the offense.
“We are not a team that gets the ball across the goal line,” said Rhule. “I told the guys after you score a touchdown, celebrate, have fun, this isn’t a real game, but we’re playing it as a game. [celebrate] between the white lines.”
Overall, Rhule said Mayfield and Darnold had a lot to offer in terms of explosive plays and long drives. With players coming off Sunday, Rhule said the team will “really dig into the tape and see who’s really mastering the offense and who’s not.”