Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule is taking an alternate approach to his quarterback situation tonight (7 p.m. ET, NFL Network) against the New England Patriots.
With the starters sitting out following joint practices with the Pats, neither Baker Mayfield nor Sam Darnold will play in the second preseason game. That leaves backups P.J. Walker and rookie Matt Corral to split the reps.
Not only is Rhule not playing the QBs who are supposedly in a battle for the starting job — read into that what you will — but the coach is also planning to alternate between Walker and Corral.
Per the team’s official website, Walker will play the first and third quarters while Corral sees the second and fourth.
“It’s two things; we want to see them both with the same groups, as best we can, so they both have the same set of receivers, and there’s a consistency there,” Rhule said. “And then we see them with the third group, so there’s some consistency there.
“Then the second part, and this was (offensive coordinator Ben) McAdoo’s idea, and his perspective, as a backup quarterback, you have to be ready to go in the game at a moment’s notice, and you have to be able to excel and play well without having much of a chance to warm up. This is our way of simulating that for them, where they have to warm up and get cooled down and go in there and be hot; that’s how I see it.”
We here at Around The NFL would like to point out that if the Panthers do, in fact, plan to rotate by quarters, that would not exactly be forcing the QBs “to be ready to go in the game at a moment’s notice.” The quarterbacks would know precisely when they’re going in. But we digress.
Walker looked good in the Panthers’ first preseason game, playing the bulk of the action after Mayfield and Darnold took seats. The veteran will likely be squeezed out of a roster spot in Carolina. Still, he’s absolutely playing for a potential job on another club that doesn’t have three other quarterbacks the team is essentially contractually obligated to retain. Plenty of teams could use a veteran with Walker’s passing and elusive ability as a potential backup with spot-starting upside.
A good showing against Patriots starters in the first quarter tonight could be key for Walker landing a roster spot early in the season.
On the other hand, Corral struggled in his first preseason action — and that’s about as nicely as I can put it. The rookie completed his first pass, then missed eight consecutive dropbacks, nearly injured a teammate, and looked overwhelmed against Washington’s third-and-fourth stringers last week.
Corral needs as much action in the remaining preseason as he can get before heading to the bench, likely for the entire regular season. He’ll get two quarters tonight to make strides.
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