Panthers move forward with new coach, QB and coordinator


By Steve Reed - AP Sports Writer



CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — It was just another Manic Monday for the Carolina Panthers.

The Panthers (1-4) began preparations for the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams with a new interim head coach, a new defensive coordinator and a new starting quarterback.

The Panthers fired coach Matt Rhule on Monday after he went 11-27 in a little more than two seasons at the helm, losing 11 of his final 12 games.

Defensive backs coach Steve Wilks, who previously served as a head coach with the Arizona Cardinals in 2018, will be the interim head coach.

The team also fired defensive coordinator Phil Snow and assistant special teams coach Ed Foley, two longtime Rhule assistants from his college days at Baylor and Temple.

Al Holcomb is a candidate to take over as the defensive play-caller, although Wilks will have plenty of input regardless of who is hired as the coordinator.

And P.J. Walker is expected to take over at quarterback against star defensive lineman Aaron Darnold and the Rams.

Baker Mayfield suffered a high ankle sprain in Carolina’s 37-15 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday and will miss multiple weeks, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday because the team has not announced the injury.

Walker started training camp as the fourth-string quarterback behind Mayfield, Sam Darnold and rookie Matt Corral, but injuries have thrust him into the spotlight again.

Walker, who played for Rhule at Temple, is 2-0 as Carolina’s starter.

He completed 5 of 6 passes for 60 yards and was sacked twice in cleanup duty on Sunday against the 49ers.

“I have confidence in everybody,” running back Christian McCaffrey said. “I have confidence in P.J. and Baker. I’m going to point the thumb and be better for whoever is out there. Props to Baker, jacking his ankle up and playing whole second half.”

WHAT’S WORKING

McCaffrey. The Panthers running back combined for 104 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown against the 49ers top-ranked defense and continues to be one of the few bright spots on an otherwise unproductive offense. But with the Panthers seemingly having thrown in the towel on the season and in need of a rebuild, it will be interesting to see if the team entertains trade offers for the 2019 All-Pro before the Nov. 1 deadline in an effort to acquire draft picks.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Carolina’s third down offense. The Panthers have been atrocious on third downs, converting a league-worst 24.2% of their opportunities. There’s plenty of reasons for that — bad throws by Mayfield, poor protection and questionable play-calling — but it’s something the Panthers have to get fixed if they hope to resolve any of their problems.

STOCK UP

KR Raheem Blackshear. Now there was a bright spot on Sunday. The running back took over kickoff return duties on Sunday and averaged 28.6 yards per return on seven attempts, including a long of 48 yards that set up Carolina’s only touchdown.

STOCK DOWN

CB C.J. Henderson. He’s viewed as the Panthers best cornerback, yet the 2020 top-10 pick continues to give up big completions and draw flags in important situations.

INJURIES

Cornerback Jaycee Horn left the game in the second half with a hip injury, leaving the team without four defensive starters. Earlier in the week, the Panthers put safety Jeremy Chinn on injured reserve with a hamstring injury and outside linebacker Frankie Luvu (shoulder) and safety Xavier Woods (hamstring) were declared out before Sunday’s game. … WR Laviska Shenault was also held out of Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury.

KEY NUMBER

1-27 — The Panthers’ record under Rhule when allowing an opponent to score 17 or more points.

NEXT STEPS

The Panthers will likely relish a chance to get away from home — where they are routinely booed, especially on offense — and all of the chaos when they travel to face the Rams in Week 6. But what this team really needs is a bye week to regroup. That won’t come until December.

By Steve Reed

AP Sports Writer