One of the few quarterback situations in the NFL that seemingly remains unsettled is that of the Carolina Panthers. It appears to be an open competition in training camp, with incumbent starter Sam Darnold trying to hold off the recently acquired Baker Mayfield, as well as potentially third-round draft pick Matt Corral.
According to a report from NFL Network, though, this job may not be as unsettled as it appears on the surface. Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo at first described it as an open competition, but then quickly pivoted to all the reasons that Mayfield is in the driver’s seat.
“It is an open competition between Baker Mayfield — who they just traded for — and Sam Darnold,” Rapoport said. “They are splitting reps, some with the ones, some with the twos. Kind of making sure they both get equal opportunity. But though the reps have been equal, it’s clear that this is Baker Mayfield’s job to lose.”
Why is the job Mayfield’s to lose? Garafolo attributed it to Mayfield having more ability than Darnold to make “wow plays, flash plays,” despite Darnold being “safer” and more consistent so far in camp.
Mayfield has certainly shown a higher ceiling than Darnold throughout their respect careers thus far, particularly in the second half of his rookie season and his third season in Cleveland. Darnold, by contrast, has rarely looked like a starting-caliber player.
It’s worth noting that Mayfield has looked his best when surrounded by an excellent offensive line and strong running game, and has largely struggled when any part of the surrounding ecosystem has been the least bit off-kilter. He doesn’t necessarily have a perfect situation in Carolina, but he does have a strong group of weapons to take advantage of if he gets the protection that has been a prerequisite for his success at the NFL level to date.