Latest On Panthers’ QB Situation

The Panthers secured their first win of the Steve Wilks era today, doing so despite their unenviable injury situation at quarterback. That could change as early as next week.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that both Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold have a chance to return to game action next week. Their respective situations in practice will of course be worth watching in the coming days, but that development would give the Panthers options under center.

Mayfield went down with a high ankle sprain in Week 5, the final game before Matt Rhule was dismissed as head coach. It was confirmed shortly thereafter that surgery would not be needed, and it came as no surprise that the team decided against placing him on IR. A initial timetable of two to six weeks was presented for his recovery.

Last week, however, it was revealed that Mayfield suffered a torn ligament in his ankle. That was expected to delay his return, but today’s update means it could still come on the near side of his timeframe. The trade acquisition had struggled mightily prior to the team’s necessary pivot switch. He was on the field for practice in the build-up to today’s upset win over the Buccaneers.

Darnold, meanwhile, has been out since suffering an ankle sprain of his own during the preseason. The team’s 2021 starter was designated to return from IR last week, opening his three-week window to be activated. Taking the field next week would thus represent a logical timeframe for the Panthers’ other 2018 top-3 QB. Performance, rather than injuries, however, will also complicate the team’s decision regarding a starter.

P.J. Walker served as the top option during last week’s loss to the Rams, and did so again today. After he led the team to a 21-3 win over Tampa Bay (throwing for 177 yards and two touchdowns in the process), Wilks said it would be “hard” to remove the 27-year-old from first-team duties even if Mayfield and Darnold are healthy (Twitter link via Joe Person of The Athletic).

Now sitting a 2-5 and in the midst of a selling-off of key players ahead of the trade deadline (yet, on the other hand, just one game out of the NFC South lead), the Panthers will visit the Falcons in Week 8. Which passers will be available at the time – and the team’s pecking order at the position – will be worth monitoring.

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