Who could Patriots face at QB if Panthers' Darnold can't suit up?


After frustrating Justin Herbert in an upset win of the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 8, the New England Patriots will look to replicate that defensive success against... TBD.

The Patriots pay a Week 9 visit to the Carolina Panthers, whose starting quarterback, Sam Darnold, suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter of his team's Week 8 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

Darnold is in the concussion protocol, putting his status for Sunday's game against the Patriots in doubt. But the Panthers are already making contingency plans: The club is signing former Los Angeles Rams quarterback Josh Love to its practice squad, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday.

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Since we likely won't know Darnold's status until later in the week, New England will have to prepare to see someone else Sunday. So, who are the Panthers' other options? Here's a quick run-through:

The backup: P.J. Walker

Walker replaced Darnold in last Sunday's game, so he's the most likely candidate to start if Darnold can't go. Walker also took over for Darnold late in the Panthers' 25-3 loss to the New York Giants in Week 7.

You might remember Walker from his XFL success: The 26-year-old QB amassed 1,338 passing yards and 15 touchdown passes (both league highs) for the Houston Roughnecks in 2020 before the XFL canceled its season due to COVID-19.

Walker hasn't found the same success in the NFL, though. The undrafted free agent out of Temple in 2017 has a 49.3% completion rate over two seasons in Carolina and has one touchdown pass to five interceptions.


The practice squadders: James Morgan and Josh Love

Morgan joined the Panthers' practice squad in September following his release from the New York Jets, who took him in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft out of Florida International. He has yet to play an NFL snap.

The same is true of Love, who signed with the Rams last season as an undrafted free agent out of San Jose State.

The free-agent pickup?

Carolina's backup options obviously aren't ideal, and there are free-agent QBs available -- including former Patriots and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

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All indications suggest the Panthers have no interest in signing Newton, though, and head coach Matt Rhule said the team wants to see where Darnold is at before considering outside options.

Carolina also just added a QB in Love, so there's a good chance this is the group Rhule is rolling with ahead of Sunday's 1 p.m. ET matchup with New England.