“They were both in charge” in the first game

The Carolina Panthers’ preseason opener offered no definitive statement in the quarterback competition between Mayfield Baker and Sam Darnold.

“I really have to watch the tape to see exactly what they did, but I thought they were both in charge. They did the right checks, so I was happy,” said coach- chef Matt Rhule after Saturday’s game. 23-21 victory on Washington.

Mayfield started, but Rhule said the team was still in the battle assessment phase. The coach declined to name a starter until the second preseason game.

“No, it was for today, it was just for today,” Rhule said of Mayfield’s departure. “So we’ll go back and watch this tape. Obviously Sam took us into the end zone. Baker led us out into the field. It looked like both guys had been playing well in terms of production. We’ll be back and see where they That was just for today.

Mayfield got the start and showed solid offensive development as he learned the new system. The former Browns QB made several good throws while getting hit behind a developing offensive line. He completed 4 of 7 passes for 45 yards on his lone drive. All four of Mayfield’s completions were under 10 passing yards (0-2 on passes over 10 yards).

Mayfield converted on several thirds and shorts and almost got a deep shot for Robbie Anderson. Quickly processing third downs to find the open guy could give Mayfield the edge in the competition.

Mayfield sent the Panthers into the red zone before an incompleteness, a sloppy snap and miscommunication with Brandon Zylstra blocked the drive, with Carolina settling for a field goal.

“I thought we moved the ball well down the pitch. He did a good job moving it with his feet, finding the controls,” Rhule said of Mayfield. “And then, you know, we got there in the red zone, called a play action, the receiver doesn’t follow the road, blocks, [Mayfield] must mess up the game. We fumbled it, fumbled the snap and ended up not scoring. There’s still a lot to build on, but I think he moved the ball, in control, a good long drive to start the game. He looked a bit clean until the very end.”

Darnold came into a favorable position on the field after the defense forced a fumble. Darnold had a good ball slot on his first Zylstra goal. His second pass was a wonderful touch thrown from his back foot while being tagged who found Rashard Higgins for a touchdown.

“He took a big hit on the touchdown throw, made a brave play,” Rhule said of Darnold. “The hat was on his head, he got up and did it.”

With Darnold playing just three snaps on his first disc, the titular returned for a second disc. But it went on for three plays – two points and a dirt ball from Darnold, who was under immediate pressure.

PJ Walker came in as the third quarterback and looked good against backups from the commanders. Walker passed 10 of 19 for 136 yards and added two points for 12 yards.

Beginner Matt Coral enrolled in the fourth quarter. The Ole Miss product completed his first pass for 11 yards. He struggled from there, however. The third-round rookie finished 1 of 9 assists and was outplayed by Washington’s fifth-round draft pick – a UNC product – Sam Howell.

On the Panthers two-minute game-winning pass, they went 40 yards in 11 plays without Corral completing a single pass.

The rookie will have time to work on his development this season and could use more reps in the final two preseason games.

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