Panthers to start PJ Walker over Baker Mayfield vs. Falcons

Despite the blowout in the jungle, the 2-7 Panthers are staying the course at quarterback.

Head coach Steve Wilks announced on Monday that he’s sticking with PJ Walker as the starter for Thursday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. This comes in the wake of Walker being benched Sunday in favor of Baker Mayfield in Carolina’s 42-21 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

“It’s something that I felt like this week was the best,” Wilks said. “[It’s a] short week. When you look at really what he has done the previous weeks, I felt like just that consistency … I just felt like in a short week, just giving him the opportunity to go back with the game plan that we’re going to put together, what he did against Atlanta before, hopefully we can get a spark out of the offense.”

Walker finished the game with just 9 passing yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and a 0.0 quarterback rating while completing 3 of 10 passes. Carolina trailed 35-0 at halftime, which is when Wilks made the quarterback change.

Mayfield finished the game with 155 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 126.0 quarterback rating, completing 14 of 20 passes (70%). It was by far his best performance since being traded to Carolina this summer. 

He started the first five games of this season before getting injured and benched in a blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers, which also begat the firing of coach Matt Rhule. After the Panthers named Wilks their interim head coach, he promptly made Walker his starter.

Walker has totaled 623 passing yards, three passing touchdowns, three interceptions and a 77.2 quarterback rating, completing 58.9% of his passes across five games (four starts). His second chance as QB1 includes another shot at the 4-5 Falcons, who beat the Panthers in overtime in Week 8 after Walker completed a game-tying Hail Mary in the final seconds of regulation.  

Quarterback Sam Darnold was activated on Monday after missing the first two months of the 2022 NFL season due to an ankle injury. Carolina also announced that it’s parting ways with cornerbacks coach Evan Cooper and defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni.

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