Panthers QBs Cam Newton and Sam Darnold will both play against Buccaneers
The Carolina Panthers will continue platooning quarterbacks even with Sam Darnold healthy. The team plans to play both Darnold and Cam Newton against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, according to head coach Matt Rhule.
Rhule confirmed Newton would start and "have a major role," but Darnold "will play at some point."
Matt Rhule: Sam Darnold has been cleared for contact. But says Cam Newton will start and "have a major role" vs. Bucs, but Darnold "will play at some point."
— Joe Person (@josephperson) December 22, 2021
That strategy is similar to how the team has operated without Darnold. Following Darnold's injury in Week 9, the Panthers have used both Newton and P.J. Walker in most games. The two split time in every game except Week 10 and Week 15, when only Newton saw snaps at quarterback.
Darnold opened the season as the Panthers' starter, but struggled, tossing 7 touchdowns against 11 interceptions before a shoulder injury. The team signed Newton to step in, and intends to keep playing Newton ... for now, at least.
In five games, Newton passed for 4 touchdowns against 4 interceptions. Newton also rushed for 5 scores.
Panthers face uncertainty at quarterback
The decision to use both Darnold and Newton suggests neither player did enough to secure the starting job. That puts the Panthers in a tough spot. Newton will be a free agent at the end of the season, but Darnold is still under contract for 2022. Unless Darnold can show something down the stretch, the team could draft a quarterback with an early pick in the 2022 NFL draft.
Pitt's Kenny Pickett is thought to be the best option available, and our own Eric Edholm believes the Panthers will have interest. Rhule and Pickett have a history. Rhule was coaching at Temple when Pickett committed to the school.
Pickett eventually opted for Pittsburgh, and Rhule left Temple for Baylor, so the two never worked together in college. They could fix that in the pros, though that is dependent on Rhule keeping his job, which is not a guarantee.