Sunday, August 14, 2022

Panthers first-round pick Ikem Ekwonu on QB battle: ‘Competition brings best out of everybody’

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We don’t yet know who will be the starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers when the 2022 season begins. Neither, really, do the Panthers. 

Will it be the incumbent Sam Darnold, for whom the Panthers traded a bunch of draft picks last offseason and then guaranteed his fifth-year option, before he struggled badly enough that the Panthers felt compelled to add two more quarterbacks this offseason? Will it be third-round pick Matt Corral, for whom the Panthers traded up from the fourth round in this year’s draft? Or will it be the recently-acquired Baker Mayfield, who was brought to the team in early July after they had a look at Darnold and Corral’s work this offseason?

Again, that remains unclear. One person not all that worried about the question, though, is Panthers first-round pick Ikem Ekwonu, who will be tasked with defending the blind side of whomever winds up under center. 

“Whoever the coaching staff puts out there, you know, I feel like we’ll be ready to go,” Ekwonu said, per NFL.com. “We’re all just excited to enter training camp. I feel like we all got full confidence in the coaching staff and whoever’s back there. I’ll be doing everything I can to keep him safe.”

It’s apparently going to be an open competition in training camp between at least Darnold and Mayfield, though the rookie Corral could potentially impress enough to make the job his own. Ekwonu likes that idea, too. 

“I feel like, competition brings best out of everybody,” Ekwonu said “I’m just gonna leave it at that, competition brings out the best in everybody. I’m excited for the future of this program.”

How much longer the future of the program will be under the control of head coach Matt Rhule is up for debate. Whether the quarterback he protects over the long-term is on the roster at the moment is an open question as well, but Ekwonu is almost surely part of whatever the Panthers are building.

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