Can Baker Mayfield take the Carolina Panthers to playoffs in 2022?
By Preston Seyl
Can quarterback Baker Mayfield lead the Carolina Panthers on an unlikely playoff run during the upcoming 2022 season?
Baker Mayfield will be leading the charge as the Carolina Panthers starting quarterback this year as the carousel continues to spin under Matt Rhule. The head coach has struggled to find a long-term answer at the most important position in football, failing with Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Darnold since agreeing to replace Ron Rivera in 2020.
Darnold started well over the first three games. However, things spiraled out of control soon after thanks to All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey going down at the Houston Texans on Thursday Night Football.
As teams adjusted to having no McCaffrey to gameplan for, Darnold returned to his old self from the New York Jets, ending the season with nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions. This proved he was not the answer the Panthers were hoping for.
After the season, general manager Scott Fitterer went searching for another replacement looking into Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson, and Deshaun Watson. After searching all offseason, they landed Mayfield from the Cleveland Browns where he led them to their first playoff win since 1994 just a season ago.
With a down year from multiple injuries, Mayfield still graded higher than a healthy Darnold according to Pro Football Focus and tossed more touchdowns.
Mayfield has shown he can lead a team to the postseason in a loaded AFC. It’s also worth remembering that the Oklahoma product was a possession away from beating the Kansas City Chiefs and securing a spot in the AFC Championship game.
Carolina Panthers could secure a wild card spot with Baker Mayfield
The No. 1 overall selection in 2018 has shown he can win in this league when healthy. Mayfield should also provide the Panthers with far more accuracy than Darnold managed to accomplish during his one campaign as a starter.
If Mayfield can adjust to the new scheme implemented by Ben McAdoo – which is very quarterback friendly giving the keys to him making the checks and protection calls – then all signs point to bigger and better things for the Panthers. Although the signal-caller was the first to admit that there is much work ahead despite picking things up in a short space of time.
"“I had to learn to do my job, first and foremost, learn that offense. Obviously, there’s still room to grow. . . . It was just trying to handle the hard part of getting everything down first before letting the personality and stuff come out.”"
Mayfield will have the freedom to play to the best of his ability and there is an abundance of weapons at his disposal. McCaffrey, D.J Moore, Terrace Marshall Jr., Robbie Anderson, and Shi Smith with a revamped offensive line and a potentially top-10 defense will be significant assets to call upon, so hopes are high this can result in major improvements next season.
There is a chance Mayfield can get this team a wild card spot this year. Year 3 is also where Matt Rhule shone in his past during his time at Temple and Baylor.
Time will tell. But with a chip on his shoulder, Mayfield could be primed for a bounce-back campaign.