The “depth” portion of the Panthers’ depth chart appeared to have taken a hit on Friday when quarterback Sam Darnold left the field on a cart with an ankle injury in the team’s week three preseason game against the Bills. Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen and several Panthers players wished him well as he was transported away.
NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported that the Panthers believe Darnold has suffered a severe ankle sprain and that he will have an MRI on Saturday to see if there is any further damage.
Darnold was recently named Baker Mayfield’s backup in Carolina, meaning the Panthers’ No. 2 quarterback in Week 1 could be PJ Walker. Rookie Matt Corral (foot) is out for the season. QB depth could soon become a serious issue.
After the game, a reporter asked Panthers coach Matt Rhule about the possibility of signing Cam Newton for depth. Rhule didn’t dismiss the thought.
“Scott (Fitterer) and I are going to talk about it and obviously Cam would have to weigh that,” Rhule said, referring to the Panthers general manager. “There would be a lot of things we would need to look at. You know my feelings about Cam. My time with him was fantastic. It’s probably too early to say much about it now.”
Matt Rhule on whether he would consider signing Cam Newton if Darnold is out for an extended period. pic.twitter.com/NHwftDnLQG
— Carolina Blitz (@KeepBlitzin) August 27, 2022
MORE: Baker Mayfield named Panthers’ starting QB
What are the Panthers’ current options as a backup quarterback?
The big question for the Panthers now is what Darnold’s injury means for the quarterback position.
In the NFL, it’s extremely important to have a backup quarterback who isn’t actively losing games because injuries happen. And Mayfield won’t have an unlimited leash as a starter, even if he’s better than Darnold.
Walker completed 36 of 66 passes for the Panthers last season, with one touchdown and three interceptions. In his one start, he completed 22 of 29 passes for 167 yards in a 34-10 win over the Cardinals.
Newton rushed for a touchdown and threw for another in that game, his first after re-signing with the Panthers. Carolina brought him back after Darnold suffered a fractured shoulder blade. His return was far from triumphant, taking a 5-0 lead as a regular despite starting with a strong game against Washington.
Perhaps the Panthers would be emboldened if they didn’t have to bring in Newton to start this year. Rhule’s never-sag-die attitude was certainly remarkable, but for now the plan will likely be to really hope Mayfield works as a starter and Darnold doesn’t miss a significant time.