P.J. Walker was one of the standout stars of the shortened XFL season. He certainly did enough to catch the attention of the Carolina Panthers and earn a move to the NFL.
The 25-year-old failed to make the grade in his first crack in the NFL, ending up on the practice squad of the Indianapolis Colts for two seasons before being cut in 2019. The XFL quickly snapped up his signature for their season, while the Pittsburgh Steelers were prevented from adding the quarterback to their roster amid Ben Roethlisberger’s season-ending elbow injury.
Walker landed with the Houston Roughnecks and produced five impressive performances, guiding his team to victories in all of their contests. He threw 15 touchdowns to only four interceptions along with 99 rushing yards and a score on the ground, whilst also leading the XFL in passing yards.
The 25-year-old certainly caught the eye, and new Panthers coach Matt Rhule moved to sign the quarterback, who he had previously coached during his college career at Temple. He now has the second chance to forge a career in the NFL and he could have the opportunity to start for the Panthers amid competition with Teddy Bridgewater.
Could Walker Oust Bridgewater?
The Panthers are going through a rebuild with Rhule at the helm, having replaced long-standing coach Ron Rivera last term. Cam Newton left the franchise after nine seasons, while Luke Kuechly retired amid fears over his long-term health. As a result, Carolina are not considered to be in the running for the NFC South title by the leading NFL betting sites, although depending on their displays of Bridgewater or perhaps even Walker – they could be worth an outside punt. Tracking the odds and offers of the bookmakers may the best option to use a free bet as looking at the quality on the roster – a playoff run would be a surprise.
Bridgewater is the presumptive starter for the Panthers. He was solid in relief of Drew Brees last season for the New Orleans Saints and signed a lucrative deal with Carolina to replace the outgoing Newton. The 26-year-old was not overly spectacular before breaking his leg in devastating fashion with the Minnesota Vikings and is regarded as a safe pair of hands.
That could pave the way for Walker to challenge Bridgewater for the starting job, especially if the latter has an underwhelming start to the season. Walker will be familiar with Rhule’s system and has durability on his side, which has meant a question mark laid next to his team-mate. The 25-year-old has good deep ball and can maneuver in the pocket to escape pressure as he proved with the Roughnecks, whether he can adapt to a higher standard in the NFL remains to be seen.
Working with the Panthers’ Talent
Carolina boast arguably the best running back in the game at the moment in Christian McCaffrey. He does everything out of the backfield and is a quarterback’s best friend, easing the pressure with his ability to catch and fight for tough yards. Outside of the 24-year-old, talent is a bit thin on the ground in the offense. It will be up to Rhule to scheme up plays to get the best out of the wideouts and tight ends on the roster.
Robby Anderson was a major free-agent signing, having played under Rhule and with Walker at Temple. The connection between Walker and Anderson could be an intriguing one at NFL level. The two players connected for 16 touchdowns in two seasons in the college ranks. Anderson’s speed has already seen him become a leading wideout – adding Walker’s deep ball to the equation might be a fruitful one indeed for the Panthers to consider. D.J Moore enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2019 and will offer quality from the slot.
The quarterback decision could define Rhule’s tenure with the Panthers and if makes a bold choice to name the upstart, who he has familiarity with – it could spark another successful run in Carolina.
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