The Panthers may have more QB issues to come. Backup Sam Darnold was carried off the field in the team’s preseason finale against the Bills, ESPN’s David Newton reports (Twitter link). NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweet that he may have sprained his upper ankle and will have an MRI tomorrow.
The 25-year-old twisted his left ankle taking a kick (video link via Nicki Jhabvala of The Washington Post). The play resulted in the second bad news for him this week; the head coach Matt Rhule recently appointed Mayfield Baker the team’s starting quarterback. However, the position now faces serious question marks.
Third round rookie Matt Coral is likely out for the season after suffering an injury from Lisfranc. He was not in contention for the starting role, but had a comfortable grip on the No. 3 spot as a development reserve. If Darnold were to miss significant time, Mayfield would of course remain a first-team player, but the squad would be dangerously thin behind him.
The team announced, unsurprisingly, that Darnold would not be returning. The Panthers also have two other notable players who got knocked around during tonight’s game. defensive tackle Derrick Brown left the contest with an oblique injury, Newton tweet. Any absence from the first round of 2020 would be a blow to the defensive interior of the team.
Additionally, the kicker Zane Gonzalez need a cart to leave the field, as indicated (on Twitter) by Joseph Person of The Athletic. He suffered a groin injury and, like Darnold and Brown, will not return. The 27-year-old suffered the injury last season while warming up for a game against the Bills.
In Darnold’s absence, PJ Walker took over at QB. The multi-year substitute won each of the starts he made during his one-time service with the team, but was thought to be part of the roster bubble even after Corral’s injury. A significant absence from Darnold, coupled with Corral being sidelined indefinitely, could leave Walker with a clear path to a spot on the roster. With over $21 million in cap space, the Panthers could also have the option of adding a more experienced insurance policy.