Expect new QBs across the NFC South next year as the Panthers and Falcons battle it out on TNF | News, results, highlights, stats and rumours

Expect new QBs across the NFC South next year as the Panthers and Falcons battle it out on TNF |  News, results, highlights, stats and rumours

Expect new QBs across the NFC South next year as the Panthers and Falcons battle it out on TNF | News, results, highlights, stats and rumours

Expect new QBs across the NFC South next year as the Panthers and Falcons battle it out on TNF |  News, results, highlights, stats and rumours

AP Photo/Rusty Jones

This year’s Thursday Night Football Slate hasn’t provided a display of stellar execution, and this week’s matchup between the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons was no different. Fans of great quarterback play were not in for much of a treat.

Of course, this has been par for the course this year in the NFC South, a division that could have four new starters in the first week of 2023.

We saw a mostly good performance from Panthers quarterback PJ Walker, although Carolina relied heavily on the ground game. The 2017 undrafted free agent out of Temple finished 10-of-16 for 108 yards.

Walker hit a few deep passes, but didn’t provide much power in the short-to-intermediate game.

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PJ Walker rarely threw the ball down the field tonight as 12 of 15 throws were under 10 Air Yards. On those 12 carries, Carolina gained just 18 yards

On throws between 10-19 yards, he was 3/3 for 80 yards

We also saw a handful of good plays from Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota—including a pair of touchdowns—but his performance was mostly difficult to watch. He finished 19-of-30 for 186 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and played worse than the numbers suggest.

Mariota was hesitant in the pocket (sacked five times) and made some confusing throws. He hurt his team more than once with accuracy issues and bad decisions. He ran the ball recklessly most of the night — including one fourth-quarter throw that would have been an interception if Mariota hadn’t been deflected by contact moments earlier.

Mariota also had a potential interception dropped near the end zone in the first quarter.

Not surprisingly, many watching at home wondered if the Falcons would give third-round rookie Desmond Ridder a look at the struggling Mariota.

There are several reasons why the Falcons should give Ridder a look for the final eight weeks of the season. Yes, Atlanta is still in the middle of the NFC South race, but Mariota won’t carry the Falcons to a division title. He entered Thursday night completing 61.7 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions, and Atlanta struggled to really open up the offense with him under center.

Consider that tight end Kyle Pitts was a 1,000-yard receiver as a rookie and had just 313 yards in nine games.

Mariota has been a capable game manager, and his dual-threat ability complements Atlanta’s run-first offense well, but as he showed Thursday, he can’t shift the offense to the back when Atlanta needs to win through the air.

Would Rider really be more of a risk under center than Mariota? Maybe. However, he could also be the future at quarterback in Atlanta. He put up a ton last season (3,334 passing, 30 TD, 8 INT) while leading the Cincinnati Bearcats to the College Football Playoff.

The Falcons won’t get an answer if they don’t give Ridder a chance, and they need answers. Mariota isn’t the long-term answer, and if Ridder isn’t either, they’ll be looking at next year’s draft for their new franchise QB.

The 2023 quarterback draft class — likely led by CJ Stroud, Bryce Young and Will Levis — is expected to be better than the 2022 class. The Falcons could have a shot at one of the top prospects, and the Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be watching as well quarterbacks in the first round.

The Saints do not have a first-round pick due to their 2022 first-round pick trade with the Philadelphia Eagles.

With all due respect to Walker, he probably isn’t the future in Carolina. He’s simply been more consistent than acquisition Baker Mayfield and healthier than Sam Darnold and third-rounder Matt Corral.

Mayfield has been a borderline disaster this season, going 98 of 173 for 1,117 yards with six touchdowns, four interceptions and a 78.1 passer rating. Still, Panthers interim coach Steve Wilks didn’t hesitate to insert Mayfield back into the lineup last week when Walker struggled during a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

With Corral (Lisfranc injury), the Panthers can’t get a look at their rookie this season.

The Saints’ two starters this season were the injured Jameis Winston and journeyman Andy Dalton. Neither is the long-term answer for New Orleans. Combined, the Saints running backs completed 65 percent of their passes with 15 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 90 rating.

The Buccaneers, meanwhile, have plenty of uncertainty surrounding Tom Brady.

Brady hasn’t been bad this season, but he hasn’t been great either (90.5 passer rating). He is 45 years old and scheduled to become a free agent in 2023. Even if Brady decides to play at 46, he may be looking for a team with a better shot at a title than the Bucs, who lead the division with a 4-5 record.

“I don’t think he’s going to want to come back at 46 and see an organization or a roster that he doesn’t think will meet his Super Bowl expectations,” the Athletics’ Jeff Howe said. during the appearance he Herd (starts at 2:26).

Tampa does have Kyle Trask in the second round in 2021 behind Brady, but it could very well be at quarterback.

If the season ended today, Tampa Bay would be picked outside the top 18 just because they lead the division. The Falcons and Panthers would pick fifth and 15th, respectively. If the Buccaneers drop the division, they could easily become a top-15 selection.

There is a reasonable chance that two NFC South teams take a top three QB in the 2023 NFL Draft.

In Bleacher Report’s Scouting Department early top 100, Stroud is ranked seventh overall, while Young and Levis are ranked 10th and 11th, respectively. In the scouting department latest draft draftStroud, Young and Levis were first, third and 15th overall.

While Levis could be a mid-first-round pick, he has franchise point guard potential, according to Bleacher Report Derrick Klassen noticed:

“The Penn State transfer comes out of college with plenty of experience under center and with his back to defense, something not many of his peers can claim. The 6’3″, 232-pound Levis has a big arm and a do-or-die mentality in the pocket, giving him the tools to be a Ryan Tannehill-style machine in play and action.”

Teams don’t necessarily have to “earn” a top-5 selection to find the quarterback of the future next year.

And if teams in the NFC South don’t trade in the 2023 quarterback class, there are some intriguing names that will be available in free agency — including Brady, Geno Smith, Jimmy Garoppolo, Daniel Jones and Jacoby Brissett.

So, with quarterback play in the division shaky at best and rotten at worst, fans can and should expect a fresh crop of starters next season. There’s no guarantee that the NFC South will make football more exciting to watch, but it’s not like things could get much worse.

In any case, there will be changes in this division next year.

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