How can veteran Kirk Cousins serve as inspiration to Carolina Panthers quarterback Matt Corral heading into Year 2 of his professional career?
Even though things don't look especially promising for Matt Corral and his chances of ever becoming the Carolina Panthers No. 1 option at quarterback, all hope is not lost just yet. Frank Reich and his staff are keen to see what they have in the former third-round pick, who undeniably deserves a bit of good fortune after such a luckless rookie campaign with the organization.
Corral was relegated to third-string duties as an innocent bystander during the quarterback battle between Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold. The Ole Miss product then suffered a serious foot fracture in the preseason, which ended his first year in the pros almost before it began.
In fairness to Corral, he's kept plugging away. Even in the face of severe heartache and adversity.
The signal-caller is keen to stay despite some trade rumors during the 2023 NFL Draft. Corral reportedly looked sharp over the opening fortnight of OTAs and showed no ill effects from the Lisfranc complication that prevented him from walking properly for months, which is incredibly positive all things considered.
That said, the Panthers have made their intentions clear about their future plans under center. Those in power sacrificed significant draft assets to move up and land Bryce Young, who's wasted no time stamping his own mark on the team on and off the field.
When discussing Corral's status and future aspirations, Panthers.com staff writer Darin Gantt compared the situation between Robert Griffin IIi and Kirk Cousins, who were both taken by Washington in 2012. Although the Baylor phenom was the clear No. 1, injury complications thrust the fourth-round pick into the spotlight much sooner than anticipated.
Cousins took full advantage, winning Most Improved Player of the Year in 2015, securing four Pro Bowl appearances, and making more than $230 million throughout his career so far after switching to the Minnesota Vikings.
While this is a high bar for Corral to aim for, it's something that should provide comfort that anything is possible with the right work ethic and making opportunities count. Although as Gantt added in his June mailbag, there's just no telling what the team has planned long-term.
The writer did concede that trading Corral away without substantial compensation at this juncture would be unwise. Especially considering the new NFL ruling that would allow a third quarterback to be activated at any stage in the event injury strikes.
"While it may not be ideal to be stuck behind a No. 1 overall pick, [Frank] Reich was right when he encouraged Corral to "play the long game". None of us know how this is going to work out in the future. Like the great Ben McAdoo, I left my crystal ball in my other pants. But Corral is here and working (and looking sharper in practice) and apparently taking advantage of this situation as best he can. That's all he can do. From the team's perspective, it would be short-sighted to move him unless it was for a big return, and they're not going to get one of those now. Let him develop, and see what happens."- Darin Gantt, Panthers.com
Corral cannot control what happens in terms of a trade or where he sits on the depth chart. What he can do for himself is remain focused on improvement, taking on a far superior standard of coaching, and when a chance does arrive in the preseason, leave a positive impression.
If Corral can do this, then the rest should take care of itself. Although barring an injury to Young, his duties next season will be from the bench.