Matt Rhule won't decide Panthers' starting QB until after Week 2 preseason game vs. Patriots

There won't be a decision made as to who the Carolina Panthers' QB1 will be this season until Week 2 of the preseason has passed.

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule on Saturday tabbed his team's Aug. 19 preseason tilt against the host New England Patriots as a proving ground in the QB battle between Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold.

"I'm not putting a timetable on the quarterback position until after we get back from the Patriots week," Rhule said, via ESPN’s David Newton. "The Patriots week is a true litmus test for us. That will really show us where guys are."

Darnold and Mayfield have alternated reps since the latter joined the squad via trade prior to training camp in July. Darnold has let it be known that the two are "cool" with each other and expects the competition to bring out the best in both of them, while Mayfield has been appreciative of the transparency in the process.

Neither has emerged as a clear frontrunner, though, and Rhule has maintained all along he won't rush the decision.

By the time the Patriots' preseason game is on the docket, the Panthers will have played the Commanders in their preseason opener on Aug. 13 and also have taken part in joint practices with the Pats before the Friday night game.

On Saturday, both QBs had interceptions in practice, much to Rhule's dismay.

"We've got to protect the football," Rhule said.

Though Rhule didn't firmly state that he'll make a decision after the Patriots game, it will now stand as a marker on the calendar in perhaps the league's most anticipated quarterback competition.

Next up, though, is a Sunday without practice, which will be an opportunity for a deep dive into what he's seen from the two 2018 NFL Draft top-three picks so far.

Said Rhule of his and his staff's Sunday plans: "Really dig into the tape and see who's truly mastering the offense and who's not."

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