Panthers Training Camp: Baker Mayfield vs. Sam Darnold Day 6
Spartanburg, South Carolina
For the first time in Panthers training camp, one of the quarterbacks had back-to-back game-winning drives.
Baker Mayfield once again outplayed teammate Sam Darnold while working intensively with the first team on Tuesday. Mayfield has made the camp run so far (a title previously held by a Day 3 completion from Darnold at Terrace Marshall) by hitting Robbie Anderson on a 50-yard deep post route in an 11-on-11 session .
Coach Matt Rhule said he was encouraged by the way both quarterbacks are playing. The team installed about 70% of offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s playbook. Rhule said he hopes to have almost everything by the end of the week.
For the rest of the week, Mayfield and Darnold will evenly split the reps with the first team as they did last week. Day 6 of camp belonged to Mayfield, although he still made a costly mistake.
Let’s dive deeper into their performance.
Stats (unofficial): 13 for 24, 2 TD, INT
Mayfield had his best practice with the Panthers on Monday, the first day in the pads. He worked mainly with the second team, which made training on Tuesday vital as it was his turn to work with the others. At the Panthers’ camp, one consistently takes on the first-team defense and both get the second-team defense. Mayfield looked sharp playing against projected saves, but how would he pitch against CJ Henderson, Donte Jackson and Jeremy Chinn?
Mayfield responded by demonstrating early mastery of the offense. He hit tight end Stephen Sullivan in a seven-on-seven opening segment by threading a ball over two Panthers linebackers and into the back of the end zone where Sullivan tapped the back line.
He showed a continued understanding of McAdoo’s offensive principles. McAdoo expects his quarterbacks to throw quickly, distributing the ball to the playmakers rather than holding it. Several times Mayfield delivered quick strikes to Christen McCaffrey, DJ Moore and CJ Saunders. He plays on time by letting it rip and trusting his eyes.
Best Throw: Mayfield and Anderson finally connected for a touchdown pass. It was an electric moment. McAdoo called a fake inside run and Anderson ran a deep left-to-right post. As Mayfield backed up, he stood in a clean pocket, kicked his right foot back and launched a moonshot at Anderson. Splitting the corner and a high safety, Anderson followed the ball, fell under and made the catch while rolling into the end zone.
Fans cheered and Anderson raised both hands in celebration.
Notorious error: Mayfield was having a great day until the closing 2 minute drill. Carolina started on its own 25-yard line and needed points. Instead, Mayfield threw an interception to linebacker Frankie Luvu after just four plays. The pass was aimed at a breaking Marshall, but Luvu was playing drop coverage.
Rather than rush the passer, Luvu ducked into Mayfield’s passing lane and easily intercepted the ball.
Stats (unofficial): 17 for 26, 2 TD, INT
Darnold began practice making nine of his first 11 pitches. He drilled a deep route to Marshall for seven-on-seven. He landed another first on the next play by throwing to an undrafted open free agent Ra’Shaun Henry on a deep takedown.
He was on course for an effective day in competition against the second defense, just as Mayfield had done the day before. But then he threw an unnecessary interception during a red zone segment. The pass – which Stantley Thomas-Oliver tipped and Kenny Robinson intercepted – was aimed at Marshall in the back of the end zone and failed. Marshall wasn’t open anyway. The reading may have been a high-low, but Darnold missed a wide open target about 8 yards in front of him and threw in triple coverage instead.
Best Throw: Brandon Zylstra caught a short touchdown from Darnold three plays after the interception. Starting outside and to the left of Darnold, Zylstra traded with slot receiver Shi Smith and ran a short run. Darnold knew exactly where and when to throw it. Zylstra made a slippery catch in the end zone, adjusting to Darnold’s low throw which shielded him from contact.
Notorious error: Darnold threw an unnecessary interception to Kenny Robinson. The ball was originally led by Thomas-Oliver and was intended for Marshall.
Who won the day?
Mayfield takes the day. For the first time, he has created some separation with Darnold, although it is still early.
Total wins this pre-season
Mayfield Baker 3
Sam Darnold 2
PJ Walker/Matt Corral 1