The Panthers may have more QB troubles coming their way. Backup Sam Darnold has been carted off the field during the team’s preseason finale against the Bills, reports ESPN’s David Newton (Twitter link). NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets that he is believed to have suffered a high-ankle sprain, and that he will have an MRI tomorrow.
The 25-year-old had his left ankle twisted while taking a hit (video link via Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post). The play has resulted in the second piece of bad news for him this week; head coach Matt Rhule recently named Baker Mayfield the team’s starting quarterback. The position is facing serious question marks now, however.
Third-round rookie Matt Corral is likely out for the season after he suffered a Lisfranc injury. He was not in the running for the starting role, but had a comfortable grip on the No. 3 spot as a developmental reserve. If Darnold were to miss any significant time, Mayfield would of course remain a first-teamer, but the team would be dangerously thin behind him.
The team has announced, to no surprise, that Darnold will not return. The Panthers also have two other notable players who have gotten banged up during tonight’s game. Defensive tackle Derrick Brown left the contest with an oblique injury, Newton tweets. Any absence from the 2020 first-rounder would be a major blow to the team’s defensive interior.
In addition, kicker Zane Gonzalez required a cart to leave the field, as noted (on Twitter) by The Athletic’s Joseph Person. He suffered a groin injury and, like Darnold and Brown, will not return. The 27-year-old was injured last season during warmups before a game against the Bills.
In Darnold’s absence, P.J. Walker has taken over at QB. The multi-year backup won each of the starts he has made during spot-duty with the team, but was thought to be on the roster bubble even after Corral’s injury. A significant absence from Darnold, in conjunction with Corral being sidelined indefinitely, could leave Walker with a clear path to a roster spot. With more than $21MM in cap space, the Panthers could also have the flexibility to add a more experienced insurance policy.