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After a lackluster showing in his preseason debut last week, Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback Matt Corral didn’t have much of an opportunity to showcase his skills in the team’s 20-10 loss against the New England Patriots on Friday.
Corral finished 9-of-15 for 58 yards after going 1-of-9 for 11 yards last week against the Washington Commanders. He played the second and fourth quarters of Friday’s game at Gillette Stadium, while third-year backup P.J. Walker played the first and third, a decision made by head coach Matt Rhule with Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold getting the night off in the midst of their quarterback competition.
While the idea to alternate quarters between two quarterbacks may have sounded good in theory, it proved detrimental to both Corral and Walker. Neither of them was able to get into a rhythm as Carolina’s offense struggled to move the ball. Throughout the game, fans and pundits ripped Rhule for not committing to the rookie and giving him the chance to develop while Mayfield and Darnold sat out.
🅿️anthers Culture🥷🏽👨🏽🍳 @PanthersCulture
I would’ve preferred to give Matt Corral the start tonight – since Rhule has this extra goofy relationship with Sam Darnold. https://t.co/WsW96avogl
Corral turned heads during his opening drive, making quick decisions and crisp passes. The drive ended with a punt, but it was enough to impress critics. His second drive was cut short because of a fumble by receiver Stephen Sullivan after a short completion.
Corral had a prime opportunity to showcase his skills with a two-minute drive, but his first pass was nearly intercepted by Patriots linebacker Mack Wilson. Corral completed a pass on third down, but it was measured to be inches short of the first-down marker.
The Panthers elected to punt rather than go for it deep in their own territory. Corral ended the quarter 6-of-10 for 28 yards. Fans turned on him briefly for faltering on his final drive of the quarter.
Panthers fans watching Matt Corral. 💀💀💀 pic.twitter.com/xOlS1jC0pK
The fourth quarter was fairly uneventful, with Corral’s first two drives ending with punts after minimal gains. He managed to complete three more passes for 30 yards, but he was later ruled out of the game with a foot injury.
Walker was inserted into the contest with less than two minutes left, and he was sacked in his own end zone on the ensuing drive. The Patriots recovered the fumble for the touchdown. Walker threw an interception to end the game several plays later.
Thanks to some questionable coaching decisions, Corral has not had the proper chance to get used to life in the NFL. Friday’s game was a prime opportunity for the third-round rookie to get some significant playing time with Mayfield and Darnold out of the lineup.
The Panthers have to hope Corral’s foot injury isn’t too serious, as it’s clear that his development has already been impacted by Rhule failing to give him a genuine chance.