Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Carolina Panthers make quarterback change, as head coach Matt Rhule told reporters on Wednesday that Sam Darnold start under the center instead of Cam Newton this week against the New Orleans Saints.
Although he hasn’t started, Darnold played 63% 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 out of the 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 start,” Rhule said last week. “We want to see if he can play at this level again.”
The former No.3 overall pick led Carolina to a 3-0 start this season, but then started to fight powerfully. In nine starts, Darnold had 1,986 yards, seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Before injuring his shoulder, he hadn’t scored a touchdown in his last three games while throwing four interceptions.
Rhule has played several quarterbacks in four of the last six games he has coached. By CBS Sports Steven Taranto, Rhule said he was not sure “yet” whether Darnold and Newton would both play against the Saints on Sunday. Rhule said Newton had as much energy and juice as anyone on the training ground on Wednesday despite Darnold being named a starter, and called him the “ultimate professional. “
The 5-10 Panthers lost five straight games and were officially eliminated from the playoffs. They face the Saints in New Orleans this Sunday, then end the season in Tampa against the Buccaneers next week.