Sunday saw the Panthers put an impressive all-around performance against the lowly Lions, and they did it with a backup QB. PJ Walker had a nice debut posting a stat line of 258 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. While not a mind-blowing stat line, he did do some good things that make you see why he was successful in the XFL.
Let’s start with the good. How long has this fanbase been waiting for a little bit more of a vertical passing game? Early in the game, we watched him uncork a 52-yard bomb to DJ Moore, another positive sight for fans that hate to see him disappear. You can clearly see his arm strength in that sort of pass as well as some out route throws with how much zip he can put on it. Pay extra attention to the play where he got his as he was throwing and still completed the out route.
We also got to see a little bit of his mobility. The offensive line had a really nice game, so we didn’t get to see him flustered much, but the few pressures you saw he managed to maneuver or escape the pocket to either scramble or throw it away. He doesn’t have the high-end speed to outrun everyone in the NFL like he did in the XFL, but he has enough to make a man miss and pick you up 5+ yards on a broken play.
Now for the bad. The two obvious bad decisions were both redzone interceptions. The first one was not a great read in the corner as he tried to thread a needle and had a little too much faith in his arm. That’s the sort of throw he used to be able to get away with and in his first NFL action, it’s not a surprise to see him try some risky throws. Those sort of mental errors will go away as he continues to see more time.
The second throw, we are still unclear as to whether there was a miscommunication or whether Walker was trying to throw the ball away. Regardless, the end result was an ugly interception. If his intent was to throw it away, you need to make the pass completely uncatchable. If it was a miscommunication, you still need to see it before you throw it and that was not even close to the nearest WR.
Overall, he had a solid evening that one would expect of a backup. He made the right reads, made the right throws, and with a defense that played lights out, did what he needed to do to get the team the victory. While he didn’t do anything to wow you or earn himself the starting gig over Teddy Bridgewater, fans can at least rest easy knowing they have a backup that can come in and win some games if needed. He may not be the answer for the starting QB, but he sure seems like the answer for the backup QB spot. Haven’t had that since the Derek Anderson days.