Even though Panthers coach Matt Rhule won’t say it, one QB clearly looks better so far

Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule narrowly plays his cards, but let me share exactly what I see at the team's training camp in Spartanburg:
There's no doubt that Baker Mayfield will win this quarterback contest.
Mayfield wasn't handsome by any means, but he was good enough to outperform Sam Darnold.
Rhule said Saturday that he would likely not announce the winner of the QB contest until sometime after the Aug. 19 preseason game in New England. But it looks like Mayfield has taken the lead and now just doesn't need to screw it up and get injured to start Week 1 against his old team, the Cleveland Browns, on September 11 in Charlotte.
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The two QBs were cordial with each other, trying to avoid the kind of drama that is inherent when a team doesn't know who will fill their most important position in the season opener a month from now.
"It's not about stabbing each other in the back," Mayfield said Monday of the QB contest. "It's about rising because the franchise and the team are going as is the QB room."
No QB could move the ball a damn ball in Monday's two-minute drill simulations against Carolina's defense, which at the time is clearly ahead of offense. The difference was more in who had made the big mistake, and that was Darnold.
After getting behind the chains on a penalty, he misread a report, threw himself into a crowded area and was intercepted by Sean Chandler. It was a depressingly familiar sight watching Darnold do it, so much so that 45 seconds before it happened I turned to the two guys next to me watching the practice and said, "I can sense a Darnold interception coming." ."
That wasn't a hard prediction, because those were too often the exact situations Darnold threw picks in last year (he had nine TD passes but 13 interceptions in 2021 and went 4-7 as a starter). Sometimes Darnold looks better than 2021, but mostly not.
Carolina Panthers quarterbacks Baker Mayfield (left), Sam Darnold (center) and Matt Corral (right) can all play in the team's first exhibition Saturday in Washington.
Mayfield completes more balls in the field than Darnold, and he picks up offense fast enough that Darnold's six-month advantage in learning new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's playbook is beginning to evaporate.
"He's definitely improving," Rhule said of Mayfield Monday, "as he's getting a better sense of what he can do on the line of scrimmage... What he's done in 10 days (boot camp practice) is pretty impressive. He makes really good jumps.”
Mayfield also gets more balls hit at the line of scrimmage than Darnold, due in part to Darnold's size advantage (officially two inches, but it looks more like four to me). And you'd want Darnold on the quarterback sneak before you want Mayfield.
But the QB's main job is throwing open receivers, and Mayfield looks better at that. He's now learning his top guys in DJ Moore and Robbie Anderson.
"DJ's a guy (who you are), just give him a chance," Mayfield said. “He's a competitive catch guy, very physical at the top of his routes… Robbie… just able to separate with his speed and trust that he's going to run from people. The cliché of 'if he's even, he goes' – that applies to Robbie.”
Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield (left) and Sam Darnold practice at training camp.
As for rookie Matt Corral, he can throw, which is no surprise. But he needs more spice, and for now he'll be this team's No. 3 QB, with P.J. Walker is the underdog unless someone gets hurt.
Maybe I'm wrong, Rhule runs a double reverse and Darnold will start at the end. I think he will still be on the list. I don't give a fuck about the latest Darnold trade rumor simply because the team that was already willing to offer a big ransom for Darnold is already employing him (look at you, Panthers).
"I'm just going to keep going and do what I can to put myself in a good position," Darnold said Monday.
Eventually both will play in the regular season. I don't think any of these QBs are durable enough, nor their revised offensive line good enough to start all 17 games.
But the guy starting week 1?
Looks a lot like Baker to me.
Matt Rhule
American football coach
Baker Mayfield
|
QB
|
#6
Sam Darnold
|
QB
|
#14

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