P.J. Walker earned his first win as an NFL starter by leading the Carolina Panthers to victory over the Detroit Lions at Bank of America Stadium.
The 25-year-old was on point for the majority of the contest in relief of the injured Teddy Bridgewater. Walker and his offense put 20 points on the board, although it could have been more if not for misfires from the quarterback in the endzone.
However, Walker was solid enough and has kept the Panthers’ slim hopes for a playoff place alive despite the loss of Bridgwater. The quarterback was not operating with a great deal of talent around him but displayed his own quality with a number of eye-catching throws.
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule has achieved a great deal in his first season at the franchise, allowing his team to punch above their weight in the NFC South. Rhule’s ability to coach up his quarterback will have caught the attention of teams across the NFL, who may have been dismissive of Walker’s exploits in the XFL.
It may just prompt others to believe that they could take a similar player for low cost, especially if Walker was to continue to keep the Panthers on track in the 2020 campaign.
Panthers have faith in Walker
Bridgewater is the rightful starter at Carolina, although his injury history is well documented, suffering a horrific left knee injury in 2016. The quarterback has already suffered one setback, injuring his right knee this term. Walker could be pressed into relief action once more, especially as Rhule was impressed with his performance against the Lions.
The 25-year-old was the star of the 2020 XFL season, leading the league in passing yards and touchdowns. Rhule coached the quarterback during his time at Temple and afforded him the opportunity to earn a roster spot in the NFL. He did enough in training camp and displayed his pedigree with a solid start in the triumph over Detroit. The two interceptions in the redzone would have concerned Rhule at the time, but with further practice with his team-mates, those issues can be rectified.
The Panthers know at the least they have a safe pair of hands with Walker, which is not something a lot of teams across the league can say about their backup quarterback. It will not affect matters this season, considering the Panthers are backed at odds of +10000 as of 27th November to win the NFC Conference. However, moving forward, Walker or another quarterback from the XFL could give coaches food for thought rather than eyeing the draft or overpaying for retread options in free agency.
What to expect in the future?
Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady has received a lot of praise for his work with Bridgewater and Walker, especially in the light of losing C.J. McCaffrey to injury. Brady could be lined up for a head-coaching position in the future and could be tempted to take Walker with him as a potential starter due to his familiarity with his system. Offenses in the modern-day NFL are about marrying talent and scheme together to bring the best results. You can have all the talent in the world at quarterback, but if the scheme does not fit, you’re not going to have success – look at Aaron Rodgers in the final years of Mike McCarthy’s reign at the Green Bay Packers.
As a result, future head coaches could be tempted to keep players that they are familiar with and start them ahead of upstarts. Eric Bieniemy has been outstanding at the Kansas City Chiefs for the past three years as their offensive coordinator. If he lands a head-coaching position, he cannot take Patrick Mahomes with him. However, Jordan Ta’amu was on the Chiefs’ roster this term after an impressive stint in the XFL.
He has solid attributes as a downfield passer and the ability to run the ball when required. The Chiefs’ style of offense can be quite complex with a number of formations and gadgets. Bieniemy will surely be lined for a position somewhere and handing an opportunity to Ta’amu over a rookie in his offense may perhaps give him the best chance of immediate success.
It promises to be an interesting time in the NFL over the next few years as offenses continue to develop. Opportunities could be afforded to previously unfancied names due to the strength of coaching and the knowledge of their intricate systems.
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