Panthers @ Commanders
Final Score: Panthers 23, Commanders 21
Writer: Matthew Bevins (@MattBQbList on Twitter)
What an amazing time of year! There are really not many better feelings than football coming back around, and the scorching weather turning over into something more livable. It’s just the preseason, so a lot of the names you may know won’t be playing for very long, but the game between the Panthers and Commanders had some interesting beginnings to attach to, as the Panthers gave us the first glimpses of their new car in the garage, Baker Mayfield, and the Commanders showcased a much needed new team name and jersey design. What did we end up seeing through this game, and will it be of any importance as we get closer to the end of the preseason? Let’s dive in!
Baker Mayfield: 4/7, 45 yards | 2 carries, 3 yards
Sam Darnold: 2/3, 16 yards, TD
PJ Walker: 10/19, 136 yards | 2 carries, 12 yards
Matt Corral: 1/9, 11 yards | 1 carry, 6 yards
The Panthers spent a long time to get to the expected outcome, but maybe now that they did it, we can take them more seriously as a playoff contender. Baker Mayfield ended up leaving the Browns after much speculation and disdain from Baker as the Browns entertained Deshaun Watson for months and months. Baker is one of those truly enigmatic talents, as his rookie season left Cleveland fans very excited, but with the minimal offense built around him, he was quickly soured upon despite the issue only being a little of his doing.
Mayfield may be the guy who is ready for the job, as he got on the field and immediately showed his vision and patience, and ability to zip passes into tight windows. His lone blemish was a mishap fumbled snap on his mark.
Sam Darnold was the lone quarterback with a touchdown, but he got it on just three pass attempts overall and is clearly looking to be on the outside looking in. PJ Walker is very elusive but seems to treat quarterbacking as an afterthought, while Matt Corral’s lone interesting highlight was a close-call mishap that was called back due to his helmet being knocked off by a defenseman mid-play. Corral had a night to remember but looks like he shouldn’t see a regular season snap at any point in the near future.
Spencer Brown: 10 carries, 36 yards, TD
John Lovett: 5 carries, 16 yards
Chuba Hubbard: 4 carries, 11 yards | 1 target
D’Onta Foreman: 3 carries, 5 yards
Darius Bradwell: 3 carries, 4 yards | 1 target
The Panthers’ backfield has a lot of names, and the pond didn’t get any less murky after the first week of sifting through the water. Christian McCaffrey saw absolutely no carries, and the second rusher into the game (Chuba Hubbard) didn’t do much of note. There was a burst run for four up the gut, and some speed and ability to hit the middle of the field, but nothing really stood out during his downs.
D’Onta Foreman has had plenty of training camp murmurs for being called “the backup rusher” in Carolina, but from what is to be seen, the true contest may end up somewhere between Hubbard or Foreman for the second rusher on the squad. While this remains true, don’t sleep on Spencer Brown, who scored the Panthers’ lone rushing touchdown on the night, and showed some of what makes tinier rushers so intriguing in the NFL, hiding himself to hole rushes, while also extending himself for extra yardage. While Brown may be on the bubble, he shows a touch higher upside to me than the devil you do know in Foreman.
Wide Receiver/ Tight End
Derek Wright: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 46 yards
Keith Kirkwood: 6 targets, 3 receptions, 38 yards
Giovanni Ricci: 4 targets, 4 receptions, 36 yards
Shi Smith: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 34 yards
Brandon Zylstra: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 32 yards
Rashard Higgins: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 22 yards, TD
Robbie Anderson: 1 target
Nate Becker: 1 target
Ra’Shaun Henry: 4 targets
Jared Scott: 3 targets
Charleston Rambo: 2 targets
As with every preseason game, there were a lot of receivers on the field during this one, but the two who mattered the most for the Panthers were essentially not there (D.J. Moore didn’t see the field, Robbie Anderson saw a lone target, no receptions), so the remainder of the players were making the case for roster spots. The two who showcased the most were Shi Smith and Rashard Higgins. Higgins has a former rapport from playing seasons with Mayfield in Cleveland, and he actually ended the game with the lone touchdown reception, albeit on a back-of-endzone toe-tapper from Sam Darnold, not Baker Mayfield.
Darnold connects with Rashard Higgins for SIX
— NFL (@NFL) August 13, 2022
Higgins is likely going to see time as the team’s third receiver or fourth at worst and showed a lot of what made him the name in waiting in Cleveland for so long, with a delightful touchdown catch and a couple of contested passes. Shi Smith was a very intriguing name and was getting some run on the routes with Baker Mayfield. Shi made a solid middle-of-field reception for 19 yards, and also made a catch on a pocket pressure breakdown on Baker. The other names have some significance to Panthers fans but not much to our fantasy minds. We’ll continue to keep our eyes on Smith and Higgins as the preseason goes along.
Carson Wentz: 10/13, 74 yards
Taylor Heinicke: 4/9, 21 yards, INT | 2 carries, 14 yards
Sam Howell: 9/16, 145 yards | 3 carries, 19 yards, 2 TD
Carson Wentz started the game out behind center and did what he normally does, serviceable statistics while not passing the eye test. The first drive saw them employing Curtis Samuel and Armani Rogers as the names to know, but Samuel ended up bumping up against the line basically right away (his move of note last year), and after a punt and Panthers’ drive, the second drive saw Rogers peppered with targets. Rogers saw three straight passes and looks to be someone that may have a rapport with Wentz through training camp. Wentz segued over to Taylor Heinicke, who showed some of the intriguing nature of his game with a beautiful rush out to the markers for a first down, but also showcased a bit of why he may be a backup of note that is in danger of having his role cut, as he made an unnecessarily dumb interception on a drive on the move that set the team back.
The real quarterback of note was Sam Howell, who may be someone that folks in Washington may want to keep an eye on. Drafted out of UNC in the fifth round, Howell was arguably the lone bright spot of the second half for both teams, and topped his evening off with two touchdown rushes, showcasing he’s also not afraid of contact or rushing plays out of the backfield. Howell was patient in the pocket, making some big plays as well as targeting numerous receivers, and with a starter who has a tenuous grip at it at best in Wentz (Riverboat Ron can say different for as long as he likes, I’m not buying it), Howell could be knocking on that door if the team starts the season under .500 over the first couple months.
— NFL (@NFL) August 14, 2022
Jonathan Williams: 5 carries, 31 yards
Brian Robinson: 6 carries, 26 yards, 1 TD | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 15 yards
Jaret Patterson: 3 carries, 15 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 2 yards
Kyric McGowan: 1 carry, 9 yards
Reggie Bonafoon: 2 carries, 5 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 9 yards
Antonio Gibson: 4 carries, 2 yards, 1 fumble | 1 target, 1 reception, 2 yards
J.D. McKissic: 1 target, 1 reception, 15 yards
The Commanders’ rushing game is in flux, and a lot of it is in due part to the decline of Antonio Gibson. The former top ten fantasy rusher in 2021, Gibson has had trouble in training camp and is now coming off a preseason game where he rushed for an average of a half yard per carry, and allowed a punch out on one of his rushes. There’s no amazing alternative just yet, but a name to watch would be Brian Robinson. The first player to score a touchdown under the Commanders’ team name, Robinson has some swag, he has some solid maneuverability, and he’s incredibly shifty. If this team sees any reason to back away from Gibson and his rock hands, J.D. McKissic is a solid running back who thrives primarily in receiving downs and likely wouldn’t get first or second down graces. There’s no sure thing that Gibson is losing his job, but put a star next to Robinson on your watch lists, people.
BRIAN ROBINSON SCORES THE FIRST TOUCHDOWN IN COMMANDERS HISTORY!! pic.twitter.com/WDt5riYmEW
— NBC Sports Commanders (@NBCSCommanders) August 13, 2022
Wide Receiver/ Tight End
Alex Erickson: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 56 yards
Dax Milne: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 30 yards
Kyric McGowan: 4 targets, 1 reception, 27 yards
Marken Michel: 2 targets, 1 reception, 17 yards
Terry McLaurin: 2 targets, 1 reception, 16 yards
Curtis Samuel: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 14 yards
Dyami Brown: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 14 yards
Armani Rogers: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 12 yards
Curtis Hodges: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 11 yards
Kelvin Harmon: 3 targets
There are a lot of names here and not a lot to think about drafting all in one breath. Curtis Samuel is continuing his attempt to become a shred of the hybrid he came into the league as. Hopefully, he can get past the injuries and inconsistencies to do so, but this game wasn’t showcasing it very much. Armani Rogers has the eyes of Wentz on his side, as he was lost for Rogers for 5 targets of his 13 passes, but we need to see more of that holding any water whatsoever. Alex Erickson and Dax Milne are two names to watch, as they were able to pick up bulk yardage on passes with Sam Howell, but the consistency and targets will need to be there, as Washington has seemed to favor a hard-nosed rushing approach, and the ability to pass out of the backfield over the passing game. If Wentz remains under center, the passing game may begin and end with F-1, as Terry McLaurin was on the field sparingly, but ripped one out of the air to finish with one reception on two targets. This is an interesting wide receiver crew to just keep tabs on, as there isn’t much in the way of any wide receiver depth past McLaurin, so we may still need to wait and see how the dust settles to see whos is valuable for fantasy purposes. While Samuel is arguably the #2 receiver, he’s likely going to be relied on more to make plays from the backfield, especially if the early season Gibson struggle bus continues to ride.