The pads were on for the first time Monday as Carolina opened Day 5 of training camp.
Coach Matt Rhule said he would have a better understanding of where quarterbacks Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield were offensively when the second week of camp began.
Mayfield and Darnold are competing to be the team’s starting quarterback and once again taking turns. Darnold worked more with the first team. Rhule said that will change on Tuesday, similar to how the quarterbacks rotated last week.
Despite working primarily with the second team, Mayfield had his most intense practice yet.
Let’s dive deeper into their performances.
Stats (unofficial): 10 of 12, 3 TDs
Practicing in pads for the first time allowed Carolina to spray in more runs. Because of this, Mayfield attempted twice as many throws as Darnold. Mayfield took advantage of every throwing opportunity by maximizing both his explosive throws and his efficiency.
There was a lot to like from No. 6. Early in practice, he hit second-year receiver Terrace Marshall on a return route down the right sideline. The 12-yard completion came via play-action. Mayfield does a great job controlling his eyes on dropbacks. His helmet stays in the middle until he is ready to unload his first read.
When Marshall got open, Mayfield broke his head to the right and hit a ball high and outside. Marshall extended, making the toe-taping catch a dive.
The duo is not done. A few plays later Mayfield hit Marshall on a deep edge route for a gain of 25. Marshall started on the right side of the formation and then worked his way over the linebackers and between a safety until Mayfield found him. It was the biggest play of the day for Carolina’s offense.
Mayfield’s efficient day continued during the team’s red zone session. He threw touchdowns to Rashard Higgins and tight end Colin Thompson off play-action drops. He almost scored on slot Shi Smith, but the pass was tipped short of the goal line.
His 25-yard completion to Marshall was textbook. Mayfield showed good patience and eye control standing in a messy pocket. However, his touchdown to Higgins also blew up. Higgins started at slot to Mayfield’s right. After a quick check, Mayfield took the snap. Higgins immediately got open on a quick slant and Mayfield delivered an accurate ball high and in front of Higgins for an easy score.
Mayfield played clean on Day 5. After practice, he acknowledged his sloppy play from Saturday and paid for it with his most efficient practice yet.
Stats (unofficial): 3 of 6, TD, Rush TD, Fumble
Coming into training camp, Darnold said his goal was to build on each practice and steadily improve each day. It’s a cliché, but it’s actually the best way for a quarterback to handle an open contest. He didn’t do that on Monday, instead, his opportunities were wasted (literally once) either because his receivers didn’t get open against the Panthers’ No. 1 defense or he missed assignments.
He showed his athleticism on several plays, taking off when things broke down. During a red-zone session, offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo even called a designed quarterback that Darnold converted. Mayfield probably never gets that play that was asked of him.
But six throws aren’t enough to win a day of practice in a quarterback competition.
Darnold connected with Smith for a touchdown in the red zone on a designed quarterback. Smith motioned along the formation and opened up at the line of scrimmage as Darnold drove to the perimeter. The smooth game ended with Darnold and Smith congratulating each other in the end zone.
Darnold had two balls Monday. After practice, coach Rhule said Darnold’s second touchdown was actually a forward pass intended for running back D’Onta Foreman. Mistakes or not, Darnold failed to execute back-to-back plays running in the red zone. The confirmed fumble came via a read-option exchange with backup Spencer Brown.
Who won the day?
Mayfield brought his best practice to Wofford College to start Week 2 of Panthers training camp. After practice, he admitted that the book isn’t “second nature” to him yet, but he’s making significant progress.
Total wins this preseason
Sam Darnold 2
Baker Mayfield 2
PJ Walker/Matt Corral 1