CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Quarterback Baker Mayfield will return to the Carolina Panthers’ starting lineup on Sunday after PJ Walker was filmed over the weekend with a sprained ankle Thursday night’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Sam Darnold, who lost an open game to Mayfield during training camp, will be the backup for Week 11 against the Baltimore Ravens.
It will be Mayfield’s first start since he sprained his ankle in the Week 5 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. He was replaced by Walker for the following week’s game against the Los Angeles Rams, and had remained a backup for the last four games despite being healthy enough to play.
Mayfield’s only playing time last month was in the second half of a crushing 35-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 7, when he led three scoring drives and finished 20-0 for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Recorded 14 passes.
Mayfield struggled to a combined QBR of 15.3 in a 1-4 start. This was his lowest in the NFL this season and the worst since ESPN started using his stats in 2006. He recorded four interceptions and his four touchdowns on his pass during that stretch.
Interim coach Steve Wilkes said the number one thing Mayfield has to do with the Ravens is “protect the football.”
A solid streak led by Donta Foreman should take the pressure off Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Panthers rushed for a season-high 232 yards against Atlanta, and traded since his star Christian McCaffrey returned to the San Francisco 49ers, averaging 159.5 rushing yards over the past four games. They averaged 89.9 yards and rushed the first game with Mayfield starting.
“It all starts at the front,” said Wilkes, who has been sticking to the running game since Matt Rule was sacked for a 1-4 start. Have to. That way he can make progress and get his ball down the field. ”
The Panthers returned from injured reserve last week and were considering all quarterback options, including a potential release of Mayfield, with Walker playing well, league sources said.
Walker was 2-3 as a starter, including Thursday night’s 25-15 win over the Falcons, and kept Carolina (3-7) in the NFC South led by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5). He was injured in the 4th quarter but was never reported. Because, as Wilkes put it, Walker “sucked it up and played it all the way through.”
Wilkes did not give an injury timetable, only saying that Walker would not be on the disabled list.
“The sprained ankle is limiting his mobility, so we’re letting him sit and go with Baker this week,” Wilkes said.
Mayfield has a wealth of experience playing against the Ravens after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Cleveland Browns in AFC North before being traded to Carolina in July.
In eight starts against Baltimore, the Browns won 3-5 and posted an 83.2 passer rating while throwing 13 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.