This is an area of need simply based on the uncertainty of who ‘the guy’ will be moving forward. Sam Darnold was traded to Carolina from the New York Jets with the hope of career revival. It seemed as if he was on the track to a resurgence however, he suffered a drop in production leading to buzz surrounding a potential benching. His shoulder ended up getting cracked in Week 9 and Darnold remains on injured reserve due to the scapula injury. The way he played down the stretch leaves the Panthers skeptical on whether or not he can be trusted long-term.
P.J. Walker has seen some action this season as well but, the consensus thought surrounding Walker is one where he is not considered a franchise quarterback. Walker is still young and if the Panthers are not in the hunt by the end of the year, the chances are he may get more playing time so that the team can fully evaluate him. He is able to make the right plays given his accuracy and can also move the ball down the field. But on the other hand, certain issues with Walker are ball security and in spite of impressive accuracy at times, there are mistakes when it comes to decision making.
As for Cam Newton, his return to the Panthers was hyped up by the media and fans who felt the NFL is a better league with Newton in it. Yet, Newton is coming off of his worst career performance. In a Week 12 loss to the Dolphins, Newton proved he’s still working back to being a starting quarterback after being let go by the Patriots and waiting for a team’s call for months.
Newton put forth a 5-for-21 (23.81% completion rate) showcase in the 33-10 loss which he ended up with a grand total of 92 yards with two interceptions. The Panthers are 0-2 starting Newton since he came back and they have yet to win with the three-time Pro Bowler as a starter dating back to 2019, as they are 0-10 in his last 10 starts with the black and Carolina blue.
With that being said, the future at the position is cloudy. Carolina may not view any of the aforementioned quarterbacks as their commitment moving forward. There are rumors of Deshaun Watson still floating around but time will tell what that situation looks like. If they want to use the draft as their answer, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral is the heavy favorite but Heisman Trophy finalist Kenny Pickett will be in play for the Panthers’ first-round pick next spring.
Matt Rhule was at Temple when Pickett committed to the school back in 2016, so the coach-quarterback connection is there. His 2021 season has been impressive as he entered the ACC Championship with 4,066 yards, 40 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions.
Additionally, the fifth-year senior also passed Dan Marino (79) for Pittsburgh’s record in career touchdown passes (81). In a game where he’s become famous for his fake slide, Pickett’s 253 yards and two touchdowns ultimately led the Pittsburgh Panthers to the ACC crown. Maybe he can lead the Panthers of pro football to new heights as well since he has continued to show improvements in his game and IQ.
The landscape of the NFC South is one where the Buccaneers have a 44-year old Tom Brady who won’t play forever (I think), the Saints are questioning if Jameis Winston is the true heir apparent to Drew Brees and the Falcons have shown no indication of moving off of Matt Ryan. The Panthers could have a head start on their rivals when it comes to grabbing their franchise guy of the next 10-12 years.