Despite the result, Saturday’s victory over the Washington Commanders isn’t what mattered most for the Carolina Panthers. Because in the preseason, it’s all about progress.
Here’s who made some leaps (and who didn’t) in the team’s first go at exhibition action in 2022.
Up: Baker Mayfield
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Mayfield didn’t blow Sam Darnold out of the water, at least not yet. Both did considerably well given their brief time on the field and this battle will, apparently, keep on keeping on.
But what Mayfield did do was swim in that water, despite just having jumped in. His lone drive resulted in four completions over seven attempts, helping amass a 13-play, 57-yard trek to a successful field goal try from Zane Gonzalez.
Although he’s had only about a month to learn Ben McAdoo’s complicated offense and work up connections with his pass catchers, Mayfield looked anything but lost in Landover. Not sinking in his maiden voyage was an assuring step for the Panthers offense.
Down: Matt Corral
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Corral, on the other hand, did sink.
The rookie appeared all out of sorts, as he faced constant pressure and couldn’t get any type of rhythm into his throws. Despite technically leading the game-winning possession, Corral ended his afternoon with an ugly line of one completion on nine attempts for just 11 yards.
He’d later attribute the less-than-stellar performance on communication issues, which he took full responsibility for, between himself and his offensive line. And to be fair, we can’t really dump on him too hard considering the limited amount of reps he’s taken amidst the team’s ongoing quarterback competition.
Up: Rashard Higgins and Shi Smith
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Carolina’s staff will have some tough choices to make when they put together their wide receiver room. Higgins and Smith tried to make those choices a bit easier.
The former made two sparkling plays—one on his touchdown grab from Darnold and the other on a leaping 9-yard reception near the end of the first half. The latter showed off his jets, particularly on a 19-yard catch and run during the offense’s opening touch.
For Smith, who is also a candidate to back up Andre Roberts on kick and punt return duties, a strong preseason showing may be vital to active roster chances.
Down: Chuba Hubbard and D'Onta Foreman
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Although Washington is a difficult group to run on, Hubbard and Foreman did little to inspire much hope.
The duo combined for 16 yards on seven carries, which averages out at a lowly 2.3 yards per attempt. It was the second-year runner in Spencer Brown, rather, that led the backfield with 36 yards and a score on 10 totes.
So, the battle behind Christian McCaffrey—much like Carolina’s rushing attack on the day—got off to a slow start.
Up: Amaré Barno
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With last year’s leading sack artist Haason Reddick gone, defensive coordinator Phil Snow is going to need some guys to emerge off the edge. One of those guys could be Barno.
The 2022 sixth-rounder made one heck of a first impression, starting with a fumble recovery on Washington’s second possession of the game. He’d follow up with a hot pressure of Taylor Heinicke, which helped give way to an interception by Duke Dawson in the second quarter.
Dawson, as well as fellow newcomer Tae Hayes, stood out as well. The cornerbacks combined for nine tackles and four passes defensed.