Evaluation and Analysis of P.J. Walker's First NFL Start

Schuyler Callihan

P.J. Walker made his first NFL start today for the Carolina Panthers and came away victorious with a 20-0 win over the Detroit Lions.

Walker got off to a solid start and completed all four of his passes on the team's second possession of the day including one heck of a deep ball to DJ Moore for a 51-yard gain. Running back Mike Davis capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run to put the Panthers up 7-0 in the first quarter. 

On the Lions' next drive, center Frank Ragnow had a botched snap and the Panthers pounced on top of the ball with great field position inside the Detroit 25. This gave Walker a great opportunity to go up two scores early in the game, but he threw the ball into tight coverage and was picked off by Amani Oruwariye in the end zone.

The offense hit a little bit of a wall in the second quarter, but responded on the initial drive of the second half thanks to Walker dropping one in the bucket to Curtis Samuel from 17 yards out for his first NFL touchdown pass. 

Later in the half, the Panthers had a chance to go up 24-0 but Walker and wide receiver D.J. Moore did not appear to be on the same page and the result of the miscommunication ended up in Walker's second interception in the red zone.

Overall, Walker played well enough to win completing 24 of his 34 pass attempts for 258 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Obviously, the two interceptions were not a factor in this game but could have been a killer in any other game. Luckily, the Lions offense was out of sync all day and was not able to capitalize on the free gifts.

Positives from Walker

- Has great zip on the ball and has a quick release, which makes up for late decisions.

- Very strong and live arm. 

- Has a good feel for the pocket and can sense when the pocket is beginning to collapse.

Negatives from Walker

- Tends to hold onto the ball too long on some plays.

- Forces throws into tight windows.

- Touch on downfield throws is good, but could be a smidge better - not a big issue.

Overall Grade for Walker: B

Does this mean that Walker has locked up the backup spot at quarterback? One would think, but I'm not entirely sold on it. Head coach Matt Rhule loves both Grier and Walker and he reiterated in his postgame presser that Grier has a "fantastic future".

The former XFL star proved today that he belongs in the NFL and deserves to be on the 53-man roster. Now, he just has to build off of what he did in today's win throughout the next week of practice to keep his status as the team's official No. 2 quarterback.

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