NFL: Carolina Panthers at Washington Commanders

The Carolina Panthers opened up training camp with a quarterback battle on their hands. Through a few weeks of camp, a preseason game, and joint practices with the Patriots, it appears head coach Matt Rhule is zeroing in on his decision. 

Baker Mayfield is expected to be named Carolina's starting quarterback for Week 1, according to The Athletic

Of course, things did seem to be trending this way for quite some time. Even when the Panthers acquired Mayfield in a trade with the Cleveland Browns in early July, the general expectation was that he'd have the inside track to start out of the gate over incumbent Sam Darnold, who failed to impress in 2021 after he was brought in from New York. 

That has since proven to be the case with Mayfield getting the start in the Panthers preseason opener and the former No. 1 overall pick played well during his brief showing. He finished his day 4-of-7 passing for 45 yards and led Carolina on a 13-play opening drive that culminated in a field goal. 

Baker Mayfield
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Both Mayfield and Darnold did split first-team reps during camp, but it's been Mayfield who has pulled away. Last week, Rhule commended Mayfield's progress within the offense after just 10 days of training camp, calling it "pretty impressive." Rhule has noted that he won't officially make a decision likely until after the Panthers' Week 2 preseason matchup with the Patriots on Friday, but -- by this latest reporting -- all signs lead to Mayfield. 

Once that does become official it sets the stage for one of the more intriguing Week 1 matchups on the Sunday slate as the Panthers will host the Browns at Bank of America Stadium. So, Mayfield's first start in a Panthers uniform will come against the team that ousted him this offseason in favor of Deshaun Watson, who is still awaiting official punishment from the league after the NFL appealed his six-game suspension. Regardless of how that appeal unfolds, Mayfield won't get to go head-to-head with Watson and will likely be squaring off against veteran Jacoby Brissett as he looks to get the better of his old club.