Baker Mayfield vs. Sam Darnold, Day 8: Tracking Panthers quarterbacks at training camp

Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez/
·4 min read

The quarterback competition between Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield continued on Day 8 of Panthers training camp.

Carolina went through a lower-intensity practice following their walk-thru on Thursday. Darnold and Mayfield are still evenly splitting first-team reps. Darnold made the most of his opportunities by throwing two touchdowns and just one incompletion on 14 throws.

Some of Darnold’s completions came when it appeared the secondary was easing up its coverage, allowing multiple deep-in-breaking routes to DJ Moore and Robbie Anderson. But during a competitive 11-on-11 red-zone session, Darnold went 3-for-3 and threw two touchdowns.

Mayfield was not as sharp as he’s been but still had a decent practice. Even his average days produce more explosive plays than a typical Darnold check-down routine. But on Friday, Darnold discarded his check-down habits and had his best camp practice yet.

Let’s dive deeper into their performances.

Baker Mayfield

Stats (unofficial): 7 for 13, TD

Coming off three of his best practices, Mayfield had a steady day throwing to a mix of first- and second-team targets. He completed passes to four different receivers, including a red-zone touchdown to receiver Brandon Zylstra on a delayed deep post.

Shi Smith and Tommy Tremble each dropped passes from Mayfield that would’ve gone for big gains. Mayfield probably put too much heat on the short pass intended for Smith. Tremble’s drop came via a deep seam route, which Mayfield placed perfectly.

The team did not practice with much tempo. There were no two-minute drills or no-huddle situations. So far during camp, Mayfield has played noticeably better when the reps reflect game situations.

Best throw: After Tremble dropped a seam route, Mayfield went back to the same play, but this time targeted tight end Colin Thompson down the left hash. Thompson was not open. Yet somehow Mayfield threaded a ball through a defender’s earhole and into Thompson’s chest plate as he strolled into the red zone.

The pass elicited a collective gasp from onlooking Panthers fans.

Notable mistake: Mayfield took a costly sack during a seven-on-seven session early in practice. He held the ball for more than three seconds, escaped right and chucked a ball that fell incomplete. Through the play was not whistled dead, Mayfield likely would’ve been sacked in a game for holding the ball too long.

Sam Darnold

Stats (unofficial): 13 for 14, 2 TD

Sam Darold threw just one incompletion during competitive seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 team sessions.

Darnold played mistake-free football on Friday. Of his 14 pass attempts, two went for touchdowns as he demonstrated a more expansive command of the offense. His most sharp moments came in the red zone where he went 3-for-3 with two touchdowns.

He opened practice completing seven of his first eight throws, including gains of 12 yards or more to Moore, Anderson and Rashard Higgins.

Darnold practiced with urgency and did not settle for his usual check-down throws.

Best throw: During a red-zone session, Darnold threw a touchdown to slot receiver C.J. Saunders, who opened up late as the No. 2 option. Initially, Darnold looked for Anderson, who ran a fade-comeback against lengthy cornerback Chris Westry. Darnold locked onto Anderson for about one second before his eyes jumped to his second read.

Saunders streaked across the back line of the end zone from left to right. Darnold delivered a dart high and into Saunders’s diving left shoulder. He held on for the score, celebrated with Darnold and let out an emphatic roar toward the fans.

Notable mistake: Like Mayfield, Darnold also took a poor sack during a seven-on-seven rep. He held the ball when no targets opened. Darnold tried escaping upfield, but edge rusher Franki Luvu immediately met him in the backfield.

Who won the day?

Darnold did more with his red-zone opportunities than Mayfield did. On his first touchdown, he took advantage of a clean pocket to deliver a strike to a deep crossing Zylstra.

Though both quarterbacks have each won three days of practice, Mayfield has collectively outperformed Darnold through eight practices. Even when Mayfield has an average practice, he still makes a notable play or two. Meanwhile, there have been multiple practices where it’s difficult to recall a completed Darnold pass.

Saturday’s practice is expected to feature a lot of scrimmaging. It’ll be the most important practice of the week for both quarterbacks.

Total wins this preseason

Baker Mayfield 3

Sam Darnold 3

P.J. Walker/Matt Corral 1