Carolina Panthers fans saw the first good performance at quarterback in quite some time during Sunday’s surprise victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Longtime backup and former XFL star P.J. Walker had a fantastic day at the office, earning the right to start in Week 8’s matchup against the Atlanta Falcons. Is this just a blip on the radar, or can Walker hold on to the job for the duration of the season?
Will P.J. Walker Remain the Carolina Panthers Starting Quarterback?
If P.J. Walker continues to play like he did against Tampa Bay, then there is no reason for him to ever lose the job in 2022. Walker was genuinely great, completing 16 of his 22 passes for 177 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions while leading Carolina to a comfortable victory. The advanced numbers tell a similar story, as Walker finished the game with 0.23 EPA/play, and Walker’s 84.0 PFF would be the fourth-best in the league if he had enough snaps to qualify.
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) October 25, 2022
Unfortunately for Walker, we have enough data to know that this performance was probably an outlier. While nobody expects him to play as well as he did against Tampa for an extended stretch, it’s highly unlikely he even plays like a top-20 quarterback. Walker has been with the Panthers since 2020 and has made nine appearances (two starts) prior to this season. During that sample, Walker has completed just 55.7% of his passes for 6.0 yards per attempt while throwing two touchdowns against eight interceptions.
Needless to say, those are not good numbers, and the fact that we’ve seen far more bad performances from P.J. Walker than good implies that the bad outings are more reflective of his actual ability. This is especially true when considering he wasn’t particularly good in college and wasn’t even drafted. However, considering there are no viable alternatives, he has earned the right to start until he puts up another stinker.
Carolina’s Unlikely Path to the Playoffs
The vast majority of fans and experts consider the Panthers to be a bottom-five team, and with good reason. Anyone that has watched this team for any extended period of time knows that the offense is abysmal, last week notwithstanding. However, despite the offensive woes, the Panthers miraculously have a chance to lead their division through eight weeks.
The NFC South has seen better days, and the 2-5 Panthers could actually end up in first place if they can beat the 3-4 Atlanta Falcons while the 3-4 Buccaneers lose to the 4-3 Baltimore Ravens. A victory against Atlanta means that Walker will be 2-0 in the two games he’s started and finished this year, and you can’t close the door on that type of success.
As long as Walker keeps compiling wins and the NFC East remains weak, then Walker should stay under center. However, if he implodes and the Buccaneers start playing up to their talent level, then interim head coach Steve Wilks needs to hand the keys back to either Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold.