Judgment day has arrived for Baker Mayfield as he leads the Carolina Panthers against the Cleveland Browns to begin the 2022 campaign.
Here we go.
Baker Mayfield‘s first competitive start for the Carolina Panthers comes against the Cleveland Browns. An instant chance for revenge, but the quarterback must also be mindful about letting emotions get the better of him with so much attachment to the team that originally drafted him No. 1 overall in 2018.
Mayfield was cut loose for a conditional fifth-round selection this offseason once the Browns secured controversial signal-caller, Deshaun Watson. Agreeing to stump up around $10 million of his salary is further proof of just how much the franchise wanted to remove their former starter completely from the equation.
Playing with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder from Week 2 onwards didn’t get Mayfield the benefit of the doubt. Furthermore, it was the excuse Cleveland needed to go in a completely different direction just one year after the quarterback steered them to their first playoff win since 1994 during the 2020 campaign.
Baker Mayfield must make his Carolina Panthers debut one to remember
This stung Mayfield, which he’s freely admitted despite not bearing a grudge publicly. But the Panthers provided the Oklahoma product with an immediate opportunity to start again and prove beyond all doubt last season’s regression was down to the injury and not much else.
The impression left by Mayfield this offseason was outstanding. He came into the organization with purpose, getting teammates onside quickly and integrating superbly within offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s complex system.
Not only this, but Mayfield brought an edge and quality under center that hadn’t been seen in some time.
Demonstrating a cool head might be difficult for Mayfield. Emotions are running high despite the player’s composed demeanor in front of the media, but just what this extra adrenaline and nerves do to performance levels remains to be seen.
Everyone will rally around Mayfield. From the fans in the stands to players and coaches.
This is a tone-setting contest for the quarterback. One he must come through enthusiastically and with a win against his old employers.
Mayfield knows what’s at stake with the NFL world watching. His every move will be scrutinized heavily and if he fails to meet expectations, those lingering doubts among many are likely to grow.
Thankfully, the time for talk is over. After so many headlines, rumors, and everything in between during the offseason, Mayfield now gets to let his football do the talking in pursuit of giving his doubters some humble pie.
It’s a long season. But this represents a judgment day of sorts for Mayfield.
A challenge he must come through with flying colors.
Protecting the football in wet conditions, making plays in key situations, and coming through in the clutch are just some of the requirements for Mayfield, who’s brought a competitive edge and swagger that’s hard not to root for.
There’s just no telling what an opening day win would do for Mayfield and the Panthers. Things haven’t exactly been a bed of roses over the first two seasons under Matt Rhule, so picking up a win and showing flamboyance along the way is the spark that can ignite Carolina to competitiveness at long last.
All eyes are on Mayfield, which is nothing new. But we’ll know a lot more about what he can bring to the Panthers moving forward after the biggest regular-season debut imaginable.