Carolina Panthers continuity in jeopardy with Matt Rhule’s approach

(Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports) Matt Rhule
(Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports) Matt Rhule /

The Carolina Panthers are jeopardizing continuity thanks to some ongoing and questionable methods from head coach Matt Rhule. 

There’s nothing wrong with a little competition. But where the Carolina Panthers are concerned, the time has come to prioritize continuity at key positional groups ahead of a crucial upcoming campaign for the franchise.

Head coach Matt Rhule is at the forefront of this, obviously.

The former Baylor man is under enormous pressure to get things right next time around after accumulating 10 wins over his first two seasons. Despite this, he remains intent on splitting reps and shifting lineups despite the fact we are now a little more than three weeks away from the Panthers taking the field at Bank of America Stadium for their Week 1 clash against the Cleveland Browns.

This is happening in two of the most important areas of play. Something that has the potential to decrease cohesion in a competitive setting unless decisions are made official in the not-too-distant future.

Carolina Panthers will continue splitting reps at key positions, but for how long?

Rhule is looking to continue splitting reps between Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold as part of his quarterback competition. Many believe that the Oklahoma product has a clear lead in the race right now, but the head coach remains eager to keep last season’s marquee arrival in the hunt after a decent camp and preseason touchdown from the No. 3 overall selection in 2018.

Mayfield is relatively new to the Panthers, so splitting reps at this stage will do more harm than good if he does eventually start as anticipated. The Heisman Trophy winner is picking things up well and acclimatizing to a new environment impressively, but his pre-snap fumble working with Pat Elflein during their preseason win at the Washington Commanders is a small example of the dangers that come with a lack of reps.

This is also evident on the offensive line.

The Panthers have switched Brady Christensen and Ikem Ekwonu around plenty this offseason. Pat Elflein somehow remains at the center spot despite the free-agent signing of Bradley Bozeman from the Baltimore Ravens.

There were times when not everyone was on the same page along the protection at Washington. If this transitions into the regular season, then it won’t take long for the likes of Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney to take full advantage in Week 1.

Of course, this added sense of urgency across the board could help in the long run. However, the Panthers need a hot start and if it takes time for the starting offensive line to get on the same page, it’s going to be a significant problem.

It won’t be much longer before we find out one way or another. Rhule’s always marked joint practices with the New England Patriots as the litmus test for his squad, which will likely play a leading role in their evaluations of potential starting options or combinations.

"“To me, the joint practices are in some ways better than the games, because you get so many situations. Coach Belichick, to other coaches, he’s the master of situational football, so they’ll get a bunch of things thrown at them this week, and they’ll have to adapt and adjust, and react to different defenses. It’s unbelievably invaluable for our guys.”"

This is a gamble that could go either way. But it appears as if the players are all on board with the process, which is all that matters at the end of the day.

The Panthers can ill afford to get yet more key personnel decisions wrong after what’s transpired since Rhule took charge. If they nail every choice and there are no adverse effects from splitting reps between some potentially important figures, then Carolina might just have a chance at proving people wrong.

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