4 key observations from Carolina Panthers preseason win at Commanders

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) Baker Mayfield
(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) Baker Mayfield /
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What were the key observations from the Carolina Panthers 23-21 victory over the Washington Commanders in their first preseason outing?

The Carolina Panthers started the preseason on the right foot, defeating the Washington Commanders 23-21 thanks to a game-winning field goal from Zane Gonzalez with just under 30 seconds left.

Carolina led for the majority of the contest but nearly blew it at the end, allowing 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. However, rookie quarterback Matt Corral led the offense down the field to set up the winning kick.

Gonzalez, who the Panthers acquired in September of last season, was in midseason form already, hitting all five attempts, including two field goals from 40-plus yards. The Panthers also witnessed Joey Slye, the team’s former kicker now playing for the Commanders, miss his first extra point attempt.

Baker Mayfield made his much-anticipated start at quarterback for the opening possession before Sam Darnold took over for the next two drives. The Panthers sat just 12 total players, six of whom were starters, showing that there’s a lot of room for improvement across the roster. Carolina is coming off its fourth-consecutive losing season and head coach Matt Rhule is already on the hot seat.

Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Shaq Thompson were among the inactive players, while Robbie Anderson, Brian Burns, and Jeremy Chinn only played on the opening possession. Although the outcome was a win, the most important part of warmup games is allowing the younger depth chart pieces to get a lot of reps in hopes of claiming a roster spot.

With that in mind, here are four key observations from Saturday’s preseason game.