In the week leading up to their preseason finale, the Carolina Panthers had already made their decision on which quarterback would start their Week 1 regular-season opener against the Cleveland Browns. After the final exhibition on Friday night, the decision to name Baker Mayfield the starter — and one The 33rd Team’s Brett Favre believes gives the Panthers the best chance to win — looked even more sound.
Mayfield was outstanding in the four series he was on the field, completing 9 of 15 passes for 89 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Meanwhile, Sam Darnold, who was in competition with Mayfield for the starting job until this week, was carted off after suffering an ankle injury in the third quarter and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks, leaving the Panthers thin at quarterback behind Mayfield. With rookie Matt Corrall done for the year, Carolina is momentarily down to just Mayfield and third-year pro PJ Walker.
Eric Mangini, former New York Jets head coach and analyst for The 33rd Team, thought Mayfield clearly solidified things with his performance in the exhibition finale.
🗣️ Shi really is that guy pic.twitter.com/R6PBhZ4LCD
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) August 27, 2022
“Watching that game, you can see why the Baker Mayfield decision might have been easier than we all thought,” Mangini said. “Baker was able to move around and generate some plays with his feet. And even the touchdown pass he threw (to WR Shi Smith in the second quarter) — that was a three-step drop on a slant — he was able to buy some time. The inside receiver runs a slant, turns it up, and is able to generate a touchdown off of a broken play. And he has that that ability.
“Sometimes he’ll take that too far and he’ll try to make things happen when he shouldn’t, but he adds that component to Carolina’s offense. There is a grittiness to the way he plays that I like.
“I thought that quarterback decision crystallized [on Friday].”