SPARTANBURG, SC — The Carolina Panthers won’t be making what coach Matt Rhule called a “major decision” at any position, especially among quarterbacks. Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnolduntil after the Aug. 19 preseason game at New England.
Even then, Rhule might not make a decision if one wasn’t clearly separated from the other after two joint practices in Foxborough, Massachusetts, and the game.
“I’m not putting a timetable on the quarterback position until after we come back from the Patriots bye week,” Rhule said after Saturday’s scrimmage in which neither quarterback had a decisive advantage. “The Patriots week is a real litmus test for us. That’s really going to show us where guys are at.”
Meanwhile, the Panthers may have lost a defensive end Marquis Haynes for an extended 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 Charles Dunlapwho signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Jason Pierre-Paul, 33, is the most notable free agent edge rusher available. He had 9.5 sacks for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020 but dipped to 2.5 last season.
According to the quarterbacks, Mayfield started 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 about his first red zone game working with the second team.
The two took equal reps with the first and second teams 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. Cornerback Myles Hartsfield took the ball off the hands of DJ Moore on a Mayfield pass that was thrown slightly behind the receiver.
Rhule noted that “a penalty put Baker behind the chains, so he had to force the ball behind the field.”
Darnold was selected by a newly acquired cornerback Tae Hayes near the sideline when he tried to force a pass while scrambling to the right.
Rhule said it was difficult to make an immediate judgment about how the quarterbacks performed because of “a disparity between who you play and who you play against.”
“The disappointing thing is every guy had an interception,” Rhule said. “We have to protect the football.”
Rhule was also disappointed that wide receiver Rashard Higgins got the ball across the goal line rather than running into the end zone after a Mayfield reception. Higgins also did his patented celebration in which he rolls the football like it’s the red carpet and then walks down the imaginary carpet.
The coach had the offense run after that.
“We’re not a team that gets the ball across the goal line,” Rhule said. “I told the guys after you score a touchdown, celebrate, have fun, this isn’t a real game, but we play it like a game. But [celebrate] between the white lines.”
Overall, Rhule said there was a lot to like from Mayfield and Darnold in terms of explosive plays and long drives. With players getting Sunday off, Rhule said the staff will “really dig into the tape and see who’s really controlling the offense and who’s not.”