The Carolina Panthers are making a change at quarterback, as head coach Matt Rhule told reporters on Wednesday that Sam Darnold will start under center instead of Cam Newton this week against the New Orleans Saints.
Despite not starting, Darnold played 63 percent of offensive snaps last week in the 32-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and completed 15 of 32 passes for 190 yards. The former New York Jet was activated off of injured reserve earlier this month after missing five games with a shoulder injury. While Newton has started five straight games, Rhule has maintained that Darnold is their guy if he's healthy.
"We brought him here to be a starter, " Rhule said last week. "We want to see if he can play at that level again."
The former No. 3 overall pick led Carolina to a 3-0 start this season, but then began to struggle mightily. In nine starts, Darnold threw for 1,986 yards, seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Before suffering the shoulder injury, he hadn't thrown a touchdown in his last three games while tossing four interceptions.
Rhule has played multiple quarterbacks in four out of the last six games he's coached. Per CBS Sports Steven Taranto, Rhule said he doesn't know "yet" if both Darnold and Newton will play on Sunday vs. the Saints. Rhule said Newton had as much energy and juice as anyone on the practice field Wednesday despite Darnold being named the starter, and called him the "ultimate professional."
The 5-10 Panthers have lost five straight games, and have officially been eliminated from playoff contention. They play the Saints in New Orleans this Sunday, and then wrap up the season in Tampa against the Buccaneers next week.