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Ben McAdoo updates quarterback competition in camp

Ben McAdoo

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said he isn't going to be an "instant evaluator."

As the Panthers near the end of training camp at Wofford, competition at all positions is still on – including quarterback. McAdoo spoke Tuesday and reinforced that the staff is still taking its time to evaluate last year's starter Sam Darnold and new addition Baker Mayfield.

"Those guys are out there battling. They're out there competing," McAdoo said. "We want to give everybody an opportunity to go out there and put their best football on tape, and we'll let it play itself out."

While McAdoo joked that he "left his crystal ball in his other pants" and couldn't give a fully accurate take on the state of the locker room, he said he's seen Darnold and Mayfield maintain an air of healthy competition.

"Up until this point, when you walked in the room, you didn't know if it was going to be a cold, dark room or what kind of room is going to be," McAdoo said. "But it's certainly not. It's a room where these guys are open, and they have conversations and help each other out. They encourage each other. It has been really good to see. They've been pros. That's what you want."

Darnold and Mayfield have split reps with the first-team offense about as evenly as it can get at training camp, alternating either full days with the group or swapping between periods and drills. McAdoo said it's tough to be fair, but the focus has been on being "just."

"As long as we don't resort to cannibalism, I think we have a chance to get out of this pretty good," McAdoo said. "They're both going to be better players after we come out of camp and playing really good football. We're just going to let it play itself out. I think the worst thing you can do is rush to a decision. Just have some patience."

Darnold came in with a head-start in McAdoo's system, having had experience learning the playbook through OTAs and minicamp, while Mayfield received the playbook just two weeks before reporting day in Spartanburg.

But McAdoo said he could tell Mayfield had been "burning the midnight oil" to get caught up and that his leadership and command of the offense have been strengths as he grows comfortable in the system.

As for quarterback Matt Corral, McAdoo said he has seen the rookie take jumps since the offseason, even though he hasn't been getting many of the first-team reps in a crowded room.

For now, Corral is still developing, McAdoo said. But his skillset, toughness and quick release have picked up good attention.

"Matt is obviously slowly and quietly improving," McAdoo said. "Reps are hard to come by, but that's just part of the game. That doesn't mean he's not improving. He is improving. He's seeing the bigger picture a lot better. We just need to continue to develop him."

McAdoo said he's also paying attention to the competition along the offensive line, where the Panthers are still looking for the perfect five to protect whichever quarterback starts in Week 1 against Cleveland.

Rookie offensive lineman Ikem Ekwonu is learning how to play in the league after he was taken with the Panthers' first-round draft pick this year, competing with Brady Christensen for the spot as Carolina's starting left tackle.

"He's working hard to grow and learn the pro game," McAdoo said. "He's only had a little more than a handful of practices in pads at the NFL level, so we're just going to keep working him, keep growing him, and he's going to keep improving."

McAdoo said the Panthers are still working through some of the offensive install, and he doesn't expect to show too much of the scheme when Carolina plays its first preseason game at Washington this Saturday.

He'll be focused on personnel decisions, making new evaluations now that the Panthers aren't playing their own teammates at camp.

"It's not about system, scheme or things like that; you want to go out and evaluate players," McAdoo said. "You don't want them thinking too much. You just want to go out, see how they compete and see how they look versus somebody else's players."

But for now, McAdoo said he's making his evaluation in camp up close and personal, on the field right beside them. He said he's teaching the group exactly how he wants to see the position played, and he knows what he's looking for.

"I want deliberate practice," McAdoo said. "I want deep practice from these guys. I want them to push the envelope. I don't want them to be afraid to make mistakes. The way I believe you train the quarterback position is you teach them the way you want them to play, then you roll the ball out there and let them go do their thing.

"I spend time in there. I'm not behind my desk. I am around the troops. That's my philosophy in that room. I've got to trust them to go out there and do the job and run the offense. If I don't trust them, I don't trust myself, and then I'm not doing a good enough job."

View photos from Monday's practice as the Panthers returned to practice after a day off on Sunday.

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