The competition to be the starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers in 2022 is underway. Although many believe Baker Mayfield has the upper hand after the team traded for him this offseason, coach Matt Rhule is still giving Sam Darnold a shot.
With training camp kicking off this week, legendary Panthers receiver Steve Smith joined NFL Network to offer his opinion on the battle. The five-time Pro Bowler said that though the competition is legitimate, he too believes that Mayfield will ultimately come out on top.
“Absolutely there is a true competition for quarterback,” Smith said, employing the use of air quotes. “But at the end of the day, you have to look at the guy who has dealt with adversity the best and that has to be Baker Mayfield. Yes, I just said Baker Mayfield does handle adversity better than Sam Darnold. He’s experienced that. Sam Darnold has been here a full year and has not solidified that seat. So when it’s an open competition, the guy who can handle the most pressure I believe is Baker Mayfield. He will take that quarterback position, because they’re also doing alternate reps with the first team. So that’s telling you they want to make the right decision with the right guys and go throw-for-throw. That’s very abnormal, but it’s exciting as a fan to watch.”
Mayfield and Darnold were the No. 1 and No. 3 picks, respectively, in the 2018 NFL Draft. Now both find themselves on different teams than the ones that drafted them, as Mayfield began his career on the Browns and Darnold with the New York Jets.
It’s safe to say that winning this competition would be a chance for either player to prove himself after a disappointing ending with their original franchise. For Mayfield, that ended this offseason with Cleveland questioning his maturity and him ultimately requesting a trade. Darnold has already spent a year in Carolina after being traded to the Panthers last offseason.
Although Darnold got off to a quick start over the first few weeks of last season, he struggled as the year went on. Injuries played a part, but he certainly didn’t do himself any favors by throwing for 13 interceptions to just nine touchdowns. If he is going to beat out Mayfield to win the Panthers quarterback competition, he’ll need to prove in camp that he has gotten better at taking care of the ball.
Carolina is set to kick off the 2022 season on Sept. 11 at home against the Browns.