Jul 28, 2022; Spartanburg, SC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) and quarterback Sam Darnold (14) during the third day of training camp at Wofford College. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers coach Matt Rhule: No QB decision imminent

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule seems to be a few weeks from deciding whether it will be Sam Darnold or Baker Mayfield taking the snaps in Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns.

Rhule told reporters Saturday that he intends to review the quarterbacks at least until after two joint practices with the Patriots and the Aug. 19 preseason game against New England in Foxborough, Mass.

But that doesn’t mean Rhule is committed to naming a starter the following day, either.

“I’m not putting a timetable on the quarterback position until after we get back from the Patriots week,” Rhule said Saturday after both quarterbacks took part in a scrimmage. “The Patriots week is a true litmus test for us. That will really show us where guys are.”

Neither Darnold nor Mayfield achieved separation on Saturday, apparently. Rhule said he saw positives from both quarterbacks in the scrimmage, but he remembered the negative, too.

“The disappointing thing is each guy had an interception,” Rhule said. “We’ve got to protect the football.”

Darnold opened the 2021 season as the Panthers starting quarterback, aiming for a fresh start after the New York Jets decided to part ways with him and traded him to the Panthers.

In 12 games (11 starts) in 2021, Darnold posted a 4-7 record. He completed 59.9 percent of his passes for 2,527 yards with nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He missed five games with a shoulder injury.

In his four seasons with the Jets and Panthers, Darnold, 25, is 17-32 as a starter, throwing for 10,624 yards with 54 touchdowns and 52 interceptions.

Mayfield, 27, was 29-30 as the starter with the Browns and completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 14,125 yards, 92 touchdowns and 56 interceptions in his four seasons in Cleveland.

In an injury-marred 2021 season, Mayfield was 6-8 in 14 games started. His 3,010 yards and 17 touchdowns were career lows. He also threw 13 interceptions.

The two quarterbacks will be forever linked. Mayfield was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, while Darnold was selected third overall.

Five quarterbacks were taken in the first round with the addition of Josh Allen (No. 7, Buffalo Bills), Josh Rosen (No. 10, Arizona Cardinals) and Lamar Jackson (No. 32, Baltimore Ravens).

–Field Level Media

Jun 7, 2022; Renton, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) and quarterback Drew Lock (2) return to the locker room following  minicamp practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

QB Competitions: Seahawks’ Geno Smith favored in NFL’s tightest battle

The majority of the 32 starting quarterback jobs have been settled early in training camps across the NFL, with only four legitimate competitions still being waged.

Of those, who replaces Russell Wilson under center in Seattle remains the tightest race among oddsmakers.

Geno Smith, who is entering his fourth season with the Seahawks, is the -175 favorite by SportsBetting.ag to start Week 1 at quarterback. He is battling Drew Lock (+135), who was acquired in the Wilson trade over the offseason.

Although Smith has spent more time with the starting unit thus far in training camp, neither quarterback has particularly impressed ahead of the first preseason game. And coach Pete Carroll has declined to outline the team’s plan for splitting repetitions during camp.

“Any time that I’m standing behind the center and I get to call out a cadence that’s the most important rep of my life, right then and there,” Lock told reporters earlier this week. “I compete with everything I’ve got, every single play.

“We’ll let time evolve and see where it goes from there.”

The second-closest race is in Pittsburgh, where veteran backup Mason Rudolph isn’t even in the picture as far as the oddsmakers are concerned. The sportsbook is offering free-agent addition Mitchell Trubisky as the -250 favorite over rookie first-round pick Kenny Pickett (+175).

Meanwhile, something major would have to transpire to change the trajectory of who is poised to kick off the season as the starter in Atlanta and Carolina. Marcus Mariota is in line to start for the Falcons and recently acquired Baker Mayfield is set with the Panthers.

Week 1 Starting QB Odds
Seattle Seahawks
–Geno Smith -175
–Drew Lock +135

Pittsburgh Steelers
–Mitchell Trubisky -250
–Kenny Pickett +170

Carolina Panthers
–Baker Mayfield -1500
–Sam Darnold +600

Atlanta Falcons
–Marcus Mariota -1200
–Desmond Ridder +550

–Field Level Media

Oct 3, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Carolina Panthers cornerback Rashaan Melvin (29) against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers CB Rashaan Melvin retires; Jaycee Horn to PUP list

Cornerback Rashaan Melvin retired before the Carolina Panthers took the practice field for the first time at 2022 training camp, ending his seven-year NFL career.

Melvin played in 10 games and started twice with the Panthers in 2021, but he didn’t report with veterans on Tuesday.

Carolina is keeping a close eye on prized cornerback Jaycee Horn. He was placed on the physically unable to perform list because he experienced soreness in his surgically repaired foot during conditioning tests Wednesday.

Melvin, 32, entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013 and had stops with the Detroit Lions, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, Indinapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins and then-Oakland Raiders. His career spanned 74 total games (42 starts) with 260 tackles, four interceptions and three forced fumbles.

Horn, a top-10 draft pick in 2021, missed 14 games last season with three broken bones in his right foot. He said in April he was “back rolling” and recovered from the injury.

The Panthers planned to work him back in with the starting defense early in training camp, but opted to tap the brakes on Tuesday.

Head coach Matt Rhule called the move to the PUP list precautionary and said Horn could be deemed ready to go as soon as later in the week.

–Field Level Media

Jul 20, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield looks on before the game between Charlotte FC and Chelsea FC at Bank of America Stadium. at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Griffin Zetterberg-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey healthy, won’t evaluate QBs

Christian McCaffrey encountered something new upon his arrival at training camp with the Carolina Panthers on Tuesday. No, not another quarterback battle.

“I feel great — the best I’ve ever felt,” he said Tuesday of ongoing durability questions. “Feeling fast, healthy. Ready to rock.”

McCaffrey spent the weekend working out with dueling quarterbacks Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield and said the thing that stood out was “they have massive chips on their shoulders” to prove they are worthy of No. 1 billing.

He described the quarterbacks as “two professionals, great players who have seen a lot in this league. They’re both hungry.”

But McCaffrey said it isn’t his job to “evaluate quarterbacks.”

“It’s not our job to look forward or look to the past, but show up, do your job — do whatever I can to help my team win,” he said.

If you have two starting quarterbacks you have none, the old adage goes, and head coach Matt Rhule and the Panthers are about to give the modernized version a test.

For at least the early portion of training camp and the preseason, the Panthers have two starters — Mayfield and Darnold. A competition that could last the month of August is the way Rhule plans to decide who starts in Carolina.

“To me, my job is not to pick the starting quarterback,” Rhule said Monday. “The players will do that with the way they play. My job is to make sure that we have really good players in the room, which we do, and make sure that they have opportunities. So it’ll be a fun ride and when we know we’ll know.”

Mayfield is the newest addition to the Panthers’ quarterback carousel.

After a 3-0 start to 2021, the Panthers won two of their final 14 games and capped the season with seven straight losses while Darnold, Cam Newton and PJ Walker took turns under center.

Mayfield was available because the Cleveland Browns acquired Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans. He played through injuries in the second half of last season and had 17 touchdowns with 13 interceptions.

“This year, I expect to win. I want to win,” Rhule said. “I’ve never had, going into the season saying, ‘Oh I want to win this many games and keep my job.’ I’m not doing that, man. I want to win at the highest level.”

McCaffrey’s health is critical, to the point Rhule has already said he won’t play in preseason games again.

“I’ll be ready to go, excited to be healthy,” McCaffrey said.

McCaffrey has been riddled with injuries since his All-Pro season of 2019, part of the reason he said his dorm room at training camp looks like one part training room and one part “Four Seasons.”

“It’s probably the boujeeist room on the team,” McCaffrey said.

He didn’t play in the preseason in 2021 and said he’s working to “adapt” but he trusts the plan.

“I would hold him out of all the preseason games again,” Rhule said. “I think he’s had enough hits on his body. But I think, just as we move forward, we’re gonna have a little bit of a different strategy practice-wise with him.”

McCaffrey, 26, played 91 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in 2018. In 2019, he played 93 percent of the Panthers’ offensive snaps and led the NFL with 2,392 yards from scrimmage. Of them, 1,387 were rushing yards, and he ran for 15 touchdowns.

He added 116 catches for 1,005 yards and four touchdowns.

After that season, McCaffrey signed a four-year, $64 million contract extension. And because of a variety of injuries, he’s played in just 10 of 33 games over the last two seasons, totaling 1,159 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Shaq Thompson (7) prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers place LB Shaq Thompson (knee) on PUP list

The Carolina Panthers will give linebacker Shaq Thompson a little more time to recover from a knee procedure, placing him on the Physically Unable to Perform list, NFL Network reported.

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said Monday that Thompson will only be out a few weeks after a cleanup in his knee and is expected to be ready for most of training camp and the regular season.

Thompson, 28, had 104 tackles for the Panthers last season with two sacks and two interceptions in 14 games as knee issues surfaced. In 100 games with Carolina since he was a first-round draft pick (25th overall) in 2015 out of Washington, Thompson has 574 tackles, three interceptions and 11 1/2 sacks.

According to a separate NFL Network report, free-agent defensive tackle Danny Shelton is paying a visit to the Panthers on Monday.

Shelton, also a first-round pick out of Washington in 2015, has played seven seasons with the Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, Detroit Lions and New York Giants. The 28-year-old has 278 career tackles with six sacks and a forced fumble in 100 games.

–Field Level Media

Jun 8, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule during Carolina Panthers minicamp at Bank of America Stadium Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Going Camping: Carolina Panthers

Rookies and veterans report Tuesday for the Carolina Panthers, who hope a few key changes on the roster can lead to a more successful third year for head coach Matt Rhule.

Rhule, who has won five games each of his first two seasons, might be feeling some heat, as evidenced by his decision to turn to another option at quarterback, newly traded for Baker Mayfield. Fortunately, Mayfield provides upside for an organization desperate for improvement.

Training camp location: Spartanburg, SC
Wofford College
Rookie report date: July 26
Veteran report date: July 26

Key acquisitions: QB Baker Mayfield, S Xavier Woods, RB D’Onta Foreman, OL Austin Corbett, OL Bradley Bozeman
Key losses: QB Cam Newton, CB Stephon Gilmore, DT DaQuan Jones, LB Haason Reddick

By nearly every measure, Mayfield has outperformed previous starter Sam Darnold in the NFL to date, so looking to him to upgrade the offense seems a safe bet.

A bigger question for the Panthers might be how much help they can provide Mayfield.

D.J. Moore has been a steady performer on the outside, but he too often has had to go it alone as Christian McCaffrey has battled a variety of injuries.

D’Onta Foreman can be expected to help, and the offensive line was boosted in the draft and in free agency (no small thing). The health and durability of McCaffrey still looms large.

The defense, with impact players like Brian Burns, Shaq Thompson and Derrick Brown, is probably good enough to give the team a fighting chance. Now it’s the offense’s turn to improve.

–WEEK 1 IN FOCUS:
Browns at Panthers, 1 p.m. ET
Line: Browns -1 (FanDuel)
Total: 42.5 points

It’s perfect that Mayfield’s first game with the Panthers will be a game against his former team, the Cleveland Browns. Do you think Mayfield, who has a history of being a fiery guy, might be a little jacked for that one? Historically, the Panthers have the advantage in the series 4-2, though the Browns won most recently, 26-20 in December of 2018.

–WILD CARD OR BUST

Most over/under bets currently hover around seven wins and pay out +105 to +230 or so. If you believe Mayfield can turn around the Panthers’ fortunes in a make-or-break year for Rhule, why not jump on the team making the wild card as a prop bet instead? Last year’s wild card required just nine wins and if the Panthers can get to nine and sneak into the wild card, that pays out at +750 (MGM).

–Field Level Media

Feb 8, 2022; Inglewood, CA, USA; A Cincinnati Bengals helmet is seen with the Super Bowl LVI numerals at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bengals unveil white alternate helmet

The Cincinnati Bengals revealed an alternate white helmet with black tiger stripes on Friday.

The defending AFC champions teased a new look earlier this month, provided they receive 10,000 likes from their fans on Twitter.

On Friday, the Bengals honored their word with a 10-second video.

The Bengals did not announce the games in which they will wear their alternate helmets.

The New Orleans Saints, Washington Commanders, Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans and New York Jets are among the other teams that have revealed new alternate helmets during this offseason. The Dallas Cowboys are bringing back their white helmets as well.

–Field Level Media

Aug 21, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers helmet during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Former first-round pick Rashard Anderson dies at 45

Former first-round NFL draft pick Rashard Anderson has died at 45.

The Carolina Panthers selected the cornerback with the 23rd overall pick in 2000 out of Jackson State.

The Panthers and the university both confirmed that Anderson died Wednesday in Mississippi. The cause of death is unknown at this time.

“Our condolences go out to his family and loved ones,” the Panthers said in a statement.

Anderson played 27 games (nine starts) for Carolina from 2000-01 and contributed 75 tackles, one interception and three fumble recoveries. He returned a fumble 94 yards for a touchdown against the New York Jets on Oct. 28, 2001.

He never played in the NFL again after drawing a one-year suspension in May 2002 for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.

At Jackson State, Anderson helped the Tigers win the Southwestern Athletic Conference as a 1996 freshman.

“Today is a sad day for the JSU family,” Jackson State vice president and director of athletics Ashley Robinson said Wednesday in a statement. “Rashard was one of the best players in the history of our football program and an outstanding person. He attended our spring football game in April and was excited about the program returning to championship status. Rashard will always be remembered by Jackson State University, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.”

–Field Level Media

Former OU quarterback Baker Mayfield speaks to the crowd at Owen Field on April 23 in Norman.

cutout

Panthers GM: ‘Open competition’ at quarterback

Carolina Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer said Tuesday that the starting quarterback position will be an open competition between newly acquired Baker Mayfield and incumbent Sam Darnold.

Fitterer made the comments during an introductory press conference for Mayfield, who the Panthers acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Browns last week.

“This is an open competition. The reason why we added Baker is to make the group better as a whole,” Fitterer said.

For his part, Mayfield said he’s happy for a “fresh start,” though he said taking a $3.5 million pay cut to facilitate the trade “wasn’t easy.”

“There was a little bit of sacrifice on all three fronts, between Cleveland, Carolina, and myself,” Mayfield said. “To me, it’s ready for a fresh start first and foremost. I’m extremely grateful for the four years I had in Cleveland, it’s a great football town.

“… But when it came down to it, it was wanting a fresh start, wanting to be with a coach and a GM that truly wanted me,” Mayfield said.

Mayfield said he and Darnold have already chatted.

“Sam reached out, got my number first,” Mayfield said. “Sam just wants to win. That’s just who he is. Our personalities might be different, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the same goal, and that’s to win and help this team out.”

Darnold was selected No. 3 overall by the New York Jets in 2018 — the same year the Browns took Mayfield No. 1.

“I’m really looking forward to being in that room with him and just challenging each other and elevating each other.”

Fitterer said the Panthers and Browns had been discussing a trade since the draft but that Mayfield’s contract situation was the biggest obstacle.

The Browns are paying $10.5 million of Mayfield’s salary while the Panthers are picking up $4.85 million, per reports. Mayfield was set to earn $18.85 million this season on his fifth-year option.

The Browns get either a fourth- or fifth-round pick in 2024. Mayfield needs to play 70 percent of the snaps for it to become a fourth-rounder.

Mayfield said he made a deal with Panthers punter Johnny Hekker for the No. 6 jersey.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) on the sidelines against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers’ odds shift with Baker Mayfield – in both directions

Baker Mayfield is finally heading to the Carolina Panthers, and sportsbooks moved swiftly to update various futures markets following Wednesday’s news.

The Panthers moved from +12500 to +10000 to win the Super Bowl and from +1200 to +1000 to win the NFC South at PointsBet. Their division title odds also shortened from +1200 to +1000 at DraftKings.

Carolina’s Super Bowl odds also shifted from 150-1 to 125-1 at BetMGM while the Panthers remained unchanged at 125-1 at BetRivers.

FanDuel told Field Level Media that while the Panthers’ Super Bowl odds shortened from +13000 to +10000 after the news broke, “no real significant number of bets” nor any “sizeable bets” had come in by Wednesday evening.

The long-rumored deal finally coming to fruition actually had a negative impact on Carolina’s futures with at least one sportsbook. SportsBetting.ag told Field Level Media that the Panthers’ futures were adjusted across the board: from 125-1 to win the Super Bowl pre-trade to 130-1 after acquiring Mayfield; from 50-1 to 60-1 to win the NFC; and from 10-1 to 11-1 to win the NFC South.

Mayfield will join a quarterback room in Carolina that includes veteran Sam Darnold and rookie Matt Corral. Mayfield was selected No. 1 overall in 2018 – two spots ahead of Darnold, who went to the New York Jets.

“Baker Mayfield doesn’t move the needle in our eyes,” said Robert Cooper, head of NFL trading at the sportsbook. “They have different styles, and I could begrudgingly argue Mayfield is a tiny bit better than Darnold, but at the end of the day they are both below-average NFL players.”

SportsBetting.ag is offering Mayfield at -300 to be the Panthers’ starting quarterback in Week 1 compared to Darnold at +200. Mayfield is the -1200 favorite at DraftKings followed by Darnold (+500), Corral (+5000) and current San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (+10000).

“I expect (coach Matt) Rhule to make this an open quarterback competition in camp,” Cooper said. “They didn’t give up much, and they’re basically being paid the same salary. Rhule could initially end up going with the QB he coached for a season… a guy he and his receivers are comfortable with.

“Either way, adding Mayfield only creates more headache and drama off the field. He certainly doesn’t make this a better team.”

The Browns, who are awaiting word on a potential suspension for Deshaun Watson by the NFL, saw their Super Bowl odds lengthen from +2500 to +2800 at PointsBet on Wednesday. They also moved from +1200 to +1400 to win the AFC.

The Browns saw no change in their odds at DraftKings, but the sportsbook is offering Cleveland as a 1.0-point favorite in their Week 1 game at Carolina. The sportsbook also created several prop bets for Mayfield ahead of the 2022 season.

–Passing Touchdowns (22.5): Over -120, Under +100
–Passing Yards (3800.5): Over -110, Under -110
–Interceptions (13.5): Over -110, Under -110

The Browns will receive a fifth-round draft pick in exchange for Mayfield, although it could convert to a fourth-rounder depending on his playing time with the Panthers.

Mayfield, 27, was 29-30 as the starter with the Browns and completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 14,125 yards, 92 touchdowns and 56 interceptions.

–Field Level Media