Former West Virginia QB Will Grier is in his second year in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers and it's been a bit of a roller coaster over the first year plus for him.
The coach that drafted him, Ron Rivera, was fired in the middle of his rookie season, he made his first NFL start under an interim head coach, and then had to adjust to a new coaching staff this offseason with former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule and former LSU offensive coordinator Joe Brady bringing in a new offense.
In his first NFL start last season, Grier went 27/44 for 224 yards and three interceptions. Honestly, it was the first time in the several years that I have covered Will Grier that he looked lost and maybe even a bit timid or unsure of himself. Much of that had to do with just not being prepared for the situation. Grier even admitted it earlier this year when talking to reporters that he was still trying to get acclimated in a backup role - something he's never had to do before.
“That was the biggest adjustment for me last year was just learning how to handle day-in and day-out, again, me against me. That was something that I failed miserably at last year, but I think that’s where you make the biggest jumps is learning from your failures and I failed last year at that. Straight up, I was bad at being a backup. Like I said, I learned a lot from it and I feel more ready to go this year.”
Familiarity and comfortability within the offense is something that has helped Grier evolve in his role with the Panthers. The offensive style that Joe Brady runs, is fairy similar to what he ran during his time at West Virginia.
“The game has definitely slowed down. I think that’s just time, and experience, and reps. I think I’m seeing the field a lot better this year for a variety of different reasons. I feel more confident. I think the experience last year was good for just going into the offseason. It gave me a lot to learn from and a lot to build off of. I was able to be specific in what I was doing in the offseason to kind of get better. And I really think that, obviously I'm learning a new offense again, but it has come faster to me for whatever reason than it did last year. "
So far this season, the Panthers have used a creative approach on who will be the backup quarterback to Teddy Bridgewater. Typically, you know who the team's backup is, but Matt Rhule really likes both Grier and former XFL standout P.J. Walker. They both bring a different style of play at the quarterback position, which is why Rhule has kept the backup QB battle deep into the 2020 season. For teams that cause a lot of havoc and pressure the quarterback a lot, Walker will be active as the team's backup and Grier will be inactive. For teams that don't have much of a pass rush or have a weak pass defense, Grier will be active as the backup and Walker will be inactive.
This week, however, is going to a little different. This past Sunday starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a MCL sprain and his status for this Sunday's game vs Detroit remains unclear. Rhule said that both Grier and Walker will continue to split the reps and if Bridgewater is unable to go, they will go with the guy that performed the best throughout the week. Rhule has confidence in both guys, but said some really good things about the former Mountaineer quarterback.
"Will has deserved to have a chance to play, it just hasn't timed out right for him. He's practiced really well and prepared really well. We could go the whole year not getting Will in the game and I would know exactly what we have with him because I see it day in and day out. I have no doubt about what he can do. He just has to go out and do it when the time comes. But I want to make sure I say it again, I think Will has a fantastic future and if he plays this week I have no doubt that he can play well and help us win."
Grier was made available to the Panthers' media for the first time since training camp on Wednesday evening and was asked if getting a chance to play in a game in front of this staff means a lot for his future in Carolina.
"I think game reps are important, I don't want to discredit that. But I also think that this is a very process-driven place and I've really taken in everything Coach Rhule has preached to us everyday, he's big on the process, so I just take it one day at a time. I know I can play in this league, I know I can play really well in this league and what I don't know and what I can't control is when that time comes, so I'll be ready when my number's called and that's all I can do."
The Panthers and Lions are scheduled to kickoff this Sunday at 1 p.m. on FOX.
You can follow us for future coverage by clicking "Follow" on the page's top righthand corner. Also, be sure to like us on Facebook & Twitter:
Facebook - @WVUonSI