Always play your hunches.
Before the Carolina Panthers’ week 11 game against the Detroit Lions, head coach Matt Rhule had a gut feeling to play backup QB PJ Walker instead of Teddy Bridgewater as a precaution to his previous injury.
The result? Walker played well. Despite throwing two interceptions, Walker’s line was pretty solid. He threw for 258 yards, a touchdown and completed 71 percent of his passes. Granted, this was against the Lions, but considering the circumstances of a team that is trying to find its way and identity, it may be worth the Panthers taking another look at the former XFLer.
Again, the Panthers are in a season of transition with new ownership, new coaches, and new players. Since there’s not a lot of stability on the roste and no possibility for a playoff berth in sight, giving some run to Walker makes sense.
Walker and Rhule already have history. As Temple’s head coach, Rhule recruited Walker. Rhule knows what Walker is about and what to expect from him. The arm strength, poise, and confidence that Walker showed against Detroit is nothing new to Rhule. It is also not new to the Cardinals, Saints, Seahawks, Broncos and the Steelers-all of which had interest in Walker as soon as the XFL suspended its season in March. Walker may not have the idea size, but what he does have is athleticism. That athleticism helps him manipulate the pocket-which is very important in Carolina since their offensive line has been a weakness.
Granted, Bridgewater has been steady this season but at times he hasn’t been great. Through 11 games, Bridgewater completed 71 percent of his passes for 2,819 yards , 14 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Decent numbers, but could be better-especially in the fourth quarter where again he has the completion rate and the yards but only one touchdown and three interceptions. In a recent mailbag by the Charlotte Observer, a fan asked whether or not Walker could see end of year reps. While Rhule may be inclined to play Bridgewater though the remaining games, he’s still being evaluated. Here’s the answer in its entirety:
“There’s always a chance, but that isn’t really Matt Rhule’s style. Rhule has reiterated that winning is important and that whoever is best suited to play the position will play. There isn’t much of inclination to put players out there just to see how they’ll do (as seen in Greg Little watching from the sidelines).
The only situation I could see Walker or possibly Grier getting a chance would be if Bridgewater’s health is a consideration due to a new injury. Rhule has also said he doesn’t think he needs to see Grier in a game to know what he can do and they got a good look at Walker against the Detroit Lions.
The Panthers are still evaluating Bridgewater. Every snap is important“
Okay, if the Panthers got a good look at Walker already, can Rule and Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady say the same about Bridgewater?
Rhule knows who PJ Walker is and knows what it is in terms of what he brings to the team. In a season going nowhere and the starting QB is still being evaluated after 11 games, why not play your hunches and follow your gut again?