CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Though Baker Mayfield seemed destined to beat Sam Darnold for Carolina’s starting quarterback job the moment he signed with the team, Panthers offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo has no regrets about letting the battle play out.

“Competition brings out the best in everyone and it certainly did for both Baker and Sam,” McAdoo said Thursday.

The Panthers are hoping that means Mayfield is back to his peak form and that his motivation now goes beyond beating the Browns, his old team, in week one. They’d like his focus to be on getting Carolina back to the playoffs for the first time in five years.

“I’ve heard things about his work ethic and competitive nature. When you sit front row for it and you see the guy in there at 5:30 in the morning. When you got that, in that room, you got a chance,” says Panthers QB coach Sean Ryan.

To accomplish their goals, the widespread belief is that Mayfield and the team will need a healthy Christian McCaffrey for the entire year. However, McAdoo says this year’s Panther squad now has a surplus of offensive star power to both survive and thrive should McCaffrey get hurt for the third straight season. 

“We got confidence in the room. We got confidence they can play,” McAdoo said.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Panthers are feeling just as good about the other side of the ball as well.

“To be quite honest, we have a luxury a lot of teams don’t have,” says Carolina defensive backs coach Steve Wilks

Defensive coordinator Phil Snow would agree. In fact on the final day of preseason preparations, he couldn’t stop gushing about his secondary.

“Arguably we have the top three corners in the league as a group,” he explained.

Between cornerbacks Donte Jackson and C.J. Henderson, there’s a lot of talent to go around but clearly the star of the trio is 2nd-year man Jaycee Horn whose skills Snow will attempt to utilize in more man coverage this season. 

“He’s got size and speed. He’s physical and he loves to play,” Snow said. “Just hopefully, he stays healthy.” That didn’t happen last year as Horn was limited to just three games of action. But like McCaffrey, and linebacker Shaq Thompson for that matter, Horn’s now back, and at last, so is a little optimism for the Carolina Panthers.