CHARLOTTE (BVM) – The Carolina Panthers are a team that is in desperate need of improvement and the spotlight will be on head coach Matt Rhule.
Rhule is already under scrutiny after making the entire Panthers offense run as punishment for celebrating. The recently acquired Baker Mayfield threw a deep touchdown pass to Panthers wide receiver Rashard Higgins and the offense was excited. Unfortunately, Higgins also extended the ball as he crossed the goal line, and that is apparently what instigated Rhule making the whole offense run.
Celebration gate update: Higgins also extended the ball as he walked into the end zone. Matt Rhule did not like that. https://t.co/wnNaeCzssg
— Ellis L. Williams (@BookofEllis) August 6, 2022
“We’re not a team that reaches the ball across the goal line,” Rhule told reporters. “I told the guys, ‘Hey, after you score a touchdown, celebrate. Have fun today.’ This isn’t a true game, but we’re playing it like a game in between the white lines and so. Great play by Higgy. He made a great touchdown catch. But I just wanted to make sure they all understood we won’t win if we don’t protect the football.”
Carolina did boast an abismall -13 turnover ratio last season, but the decision was still questioned by many.
I’m sorry but this guy STINKS pic.twitter.com/LYweGvbN5a
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) August 7, 2022
Along with his decision to punish the offense, there are concerns about how Rhule is handling competitions at different positions on the offensive side of the ball. Rhule has said that a decision on who will be the starting quarterback for the Panthers will not come until after the team’s second preseason game against the New England Patriots. A similar timeline has also been set up for when a starting left tackle will be named.
Matt Rhule: reps will continue to be split at positions like QB and LT until they get through preseason Week 2 at Patriots.
— Bill Voth (@PanthersBill) August 6, 2022
The issue with these decisions is that to outside observers there are clear cut choices for both positions. The Panthers recently traded for former Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and drafted NC State tackle Ikem Ekwonu with the sixth overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Carolina traded for Sam Darnold before the start of the 2021 season after moving on from Teddy Bridgewater, but after a poor first season, the Panthers were looking for other options. The team drafted Matt Corral in the third round, then traded for Mayfield in July.
Mayfield has looked the best during training camp, but a decision still hasn’t been made and reps have been shared. Rhule and the Panthers need to be as ready as possible for the season, and splitting reps doesn’t help with that.
The Panthers have had just five wins in each of their last three seasons, the last two seasons coming during Rhule’s tenure. He even made massive changes in his coaching staff after last season in an attempt to enter the 2022 season on a different note. The former Baylor University head coach signed a seven-year contract with Carolina back in 2020, but the pressure is increasing.
Assuming Mayfield wins the starting quarterback position, that will be the third quarterback in as many years. Injuries have caused problems for the Panthers, but the team has failed to find ways to adapt.
Tampa Bay is the odds on favorite to win the NFC South, but there is a possibility that Carolina could surpass the New Orleans Saints this year, or at the very least make a run at the playoffs. There is talent on both sides of the ball for Carolina, but the team has not been able to bring it all together. If Rhule fails to do it this year, then he may not have another chance next year.