It appears yet another New Era in Carolina’s QB room is set to take place this season with the Panthers trading for former #1 overall pick Baker Mayfield. Ever since MVP Cam was no longer a thing, the Panthers have been a complete mess under center. They brought in Teddy Bridgewater, but it didn’t work out. They then brought in former #3 overall pick Sam Darnold, who played great his first 3 games, then straight up terrible the rest of the season. He played so bad that the Panthers had to rotate between him, P.J. Walker, and Cam Newton (who they thought would save the season). But now comes a quarterback with a big chip on his shoulder, ready to show just how good he was before tearing his shoulder. One who took a team that was previously 1-31 in the last two seasons before drafting him, to the playoffs. Could this experiment be the one to take Carolina back to the playoffs?
First things first, Christian McCaffrey has to be healthy for the majority of the season for this to happen. He is the best dual threat running back in the league, and is very difficult to defend. We all know how explosive he can be, but staying on the field has been something he hasn’t been able to do as of late.
Aside from McCafrey, Baker still has some pretty decent weapons to work with out wide. To start off, he’s got Pro Bowler D.J. Moore, who’s fresh off a 1,100 yard season. Mayfield hasn’t played with a receiver with speed like Moore in the NFL, but he sure did in college. Specifically, with Arizona Cardinals WR Marquise Brown. Hollywood Brown and Baker had an unstoppable connection on the deep ball, as well as slants. He was a 1,000 yard receiver in 2017 with the Sooners, helping him boost his draft stock. If Mayfield AND D.J. can develop a connection similar to this, they could be very scary. We know just how accurate Baker was in 2020, and Moore is yet to see a Quarterback like that. If Baker can play like he was when healthy, the sky truly is the limit for Moore. Rashard Higging, a former teammate of Baker in Cleveland, signed with the Panthers this offseason. Higgins wasn’t the first option in Cleveland, but he and Mayfield had their moments. In 2020, Higgins had 600 yards, and 4 touchdowns as the third option. I assume he will play a similar role with Carolina behind D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson, but he can still be productive. I think with this group of guys, it will definitely be interesting to see how Mayfield pairs with them. Each has their own special talents, whether it’s speed, size, or route running.
A lot of players are going to need to give in for the Panthers to make the playoffs. Mayfield has to prove that he is a near top 10 quarterback when healthy, Christian McCaffrey needs to stay healthy, D.J. Moore has to stay consistent on receptions, and the list goes on and on. Facing Tom Brady twice a year, as well as the horrifying Saints defense, will not be easy. Not to mention the Eagles, Vikings, and the entire NFC West, other than Seattle, fighting for Wild Card Spots. We will see what offensive-minded Head Coach Matt Rhule can do in his prove-it year as well, as the playoffs would likely get him an extension. Can Baker lead the Panthers, or will he fall to mediocre or worse?
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