Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold each played sparingly in the Panthers’ first preseason game Saturday as they attempted to stake their claim on the team’s starting quarterback job.
Mayfield saw the field first. He got the start and completed 4 of 7 passes for 45 yards while guiding Carolina to a field goal on his lone drive against Washington.
Though Mayfield’s appearance was brief, Panthers coach Matt Rhule felt the team learned a lot from it. He seemed happy with how Mayfield’s 13 games were going.
“There’s still a lot to build on but I thought he moved the ball and was in control,” Rhule said during his post-match press conference. “[He had] a nice long drive to start the game. So it looked reasonably clean until the end.”
Matt Rhule says that while Baker Mayfield started today’s game, he was not named the official starter. pic.twitter.com/mReL39wQ3y
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Rhule singled out just one of Mayfield’s plays as downright negative: a four-yard loss after a fumbling snap that set up a third and 14 on Washington’s 23. This caused the drive to falter and eventually forced the field goal attempt.
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That aside, Rhule was impressed with Mayfield’s ability to move the ball by any means necessary.
“He did a good job moving it with his feet and finding checkdowns,” Rhule said.
While Rhule seemed generally pleased with Mayfield’s performance, the quarterback’s reaction to his debut was mixed. He said it contained “some good, some bad” and lamented the canceled snap, which he said was “100 per cent his fault”.
“Obviously hitting a field goal – points are always good on the opening run.” Mayfield told reporters after the game. “But yeah, it’s just the frustration of it [not] end up in the end zone.”
Mayfield also knew he shouldn’t think much of starting in the preseason opener. He and Rhule both said that it was only Mayfield’s turn to start. As everyone noted, both quarterbacks had pretty much even playing times and generated scoring drives.
“That was just for today,” Rhule said of Mayfield’s start. “We’re going to go back and look at this tape. Sam obviously caught us in the end zone; Baker led us down the field. Both guys played well in terms of production. We’ll go back and see where they are, but that’s just for today.”
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Mayfield has embraced the competition since being traded by the Browns to the Panthers in early July. Its tune remained unchanged on Saturday.
“I think our mentality is the most suitable [to] Just put your head down and get to work and just try to get better every day,” he said. “The best man will win [the competition] but we’re also trying to make this team better.
“I think that’s the biggest part of it. Our QB room handled it very well and we will continue to do so just to show leadership. It’s all about winning and this QB room is about that too.”