Baker Mayfield got the starting nod for the Carolina Panthers in their first preseason game on Saturday. In return for that distinction, he checked an important box against the Washington Commanders — looking healthy, confident and (for the most part) sharp in his lone drive of the day.
That drive ultimately stalled out on a bungled snap exchange, leaving the Panthers to kick a field goal in what amounted to a modest debut for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft. In that brief appearance, Mayfield was 4-of-7 passing for 45 yards, also including one drop that hit a wideout in the hands, though it would have been a tough catch.
Whatever the case, it was a much-needed positive start for quarterback in competition with Sam Darnold — two players who are both trying to get their careers back on track in the final seasons of their rookie contracts. For his part, Darnold was able to take advantage of a short field following a Washington turnover, throwing a nice 8-yard touchdown to wideout Rashard Higgins off his back foot while facing pressure. Darnold sat out the remainder of the game following his two drives.
“Obviously Sam [Darnold] got us in the end zone, Baker [Mayfield] got us down the field,” Rhule said after the game. “Looked like both guys played well.” Rhule also said that both Darnold and Mayfield looked “in command,” but said that he’d have to look at the tape to see more.