Former No. 3 overall draft pick Sam Darnold is the Carolina Panthers’ starting quarterback. For now.
But general manager Scott Fitterer said that could change, and before the Panthers open the season against the Cleveland Browns on September 11.
The other top option is former Ole Miss QB Matt Corral, a third-round pick last month.
“Sam is the number one guy right now,” Fitterer said on a recent edition of PFTPM. “He has every opportunity to take it and run with it. We hope he does well. We’ve seen improvement already under [offensive coordinator] Ben McAdoo. He’s working hard, he’s throwing the ball well. He’s just got to take it and run with it. He’s got to own the position.”
After Darnold started strong, and the Panthers started 3-0, he seemed to have a handle on the job. Then things got pretty sticky. The Panthers flopped to a 5-12 finish, ending up in last place in the NFC South.
“The one thing we’re looking to do is stabilize the position,” Fitterer said. “It’s been up and down, up and down. We’re bringing in Matt Corral. P.J. Walkers’ already here. We’ll see how it goes. (Darnold) in the lead right now, but until someone really owns that position, gives us an opportunity to win, it will always be up for grabs.”
Darnold started 11 of 12 appearances, compiling 2,527 yards on 243-of-406 passing. He threw nine touchdowns, but 13 interceptions. Walker played when Darnold didn’t and wasn’t any better.
“I thought he did play well the first three games,” Fitterer said of Darnold. “I thought he played really well even into the Dallas game. He played well in the first half. I think injuries, losing [Christian] McCaffrey did play a factor in it, but really it was the inconsistency of the offensive line. There was too much leakage up there.”
Adding to that line has been an offseason priority.
“We brought in three new bodies that we think can come in and help us start,” Fitterer said. :Drafted a left tackle here in the first round. I think that can only help the quarterback. With Sam when he has time, he delivered the ball [and] looked good, but when he didn’t have time, even when Cam Newton was here, he didn’t have time.
“It’s hard to play that position and it’s not solely on the quarterback, it’s on us. It’s on the whole offense but one of the big steps we did take was fixing that offensive line.”