Panthers plan to drag out Baker Mayfield-Sam Darnold quarterback decision

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The Panthers don’t plan to decide on their starting quarterback until at least after the second preseason game against the Patriots, coach Matt Rhule told reporters.

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

Carolina will participate in two joint practices with New England ahead of the game. If neither Sam Darnold nor Baker Mayfield has cleared the other, the battle could go on even longer than that week.

The Panthers, who went 5-12 last season, added Mayfield in a July trade with the Browns to compete with Darnold for the starting job. Darnold, once the No. 3 pick in the draft before flaming out with the Jets, struggled in the role in 2021, throwing just nine touchdowns compared with 13 interceptions.

Carolina Panthers quarterbacks Sam Darnold, left, and Baker Mayfield throw at the team's training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C.Carolina Panthers quarterbacks Sam Darnold, left, and Baker Mayfield throw at the team’s training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C.AP

Mayfield, though, wasn’t much better with the Browns. He threw for a hair over 3,000 yards and failed to convince Cleveland that he could be their long-term starter. The Browns instead traded for Deshaun Watson and signed him to a lucrative contract this offseason even with the chance he will be suspended for a large portion of the season. And so the first two quarterbacks picked in the 2018 draft find themselves competing against each other for a starting job on a team unlikely to make a run at the playoffs.

Both Carolina quarterbacks threw a touchdown and an interception in Saturday’s scrimmage, with Rhule saying it was tough to judge performance because of, “a disparity between who you’re playing with and who you’re playing against.”

Per numbers compiled by The Athletic’s Joe Person, Mayfield went 14-for-21 while Darnold was 20-for-28.

“We’ve got to protect the football,” Rhule added.

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