Struggling Panthers to start rookie QB Will Grier vs Colts

Struggling Panthers to start rookie QB Will Grier vs Colts
(Associated Press)

The Panthers will play rookie quarterback Will Grier Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.

Interim coach Perry Fewell said Grier took reps with the first team at practice this week, but initially, stopped short of naming him the starting quarterback. Fewell made the decision on who’ll start after Thursday’s practice.

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Offensive coordinator Scott Turner said the move to start Grier now felt right. He said Grier will need to draw on first team reps from training camp as well as the reps from practice this week.

“We gave Will all of the reps today with the (starters) today, and he will get all of the reps with the" starters on Thursday, Fewell said. “We evaluated it two weeks ago and this was a target game in mind. We didn't want to put a lot of pressure on him. But we said we would try to get him ready for the Indy week to play. We didn't know if he would start or not."

Kyle Allen has started the last 12 games for the Panthers and has committed 22 turnovers. He has thrown 11 interceptions during the team's current six-game losing streak.

Grier, who was raised in the Charlotte area, threw for 3,864 yards and 37 touchdown passes last season at West Virginia. Sunday would be his first NFL regular season action. He completed 34 of 61 passes for 384 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions during the preseason.

Fewell said it looked like Grier had good command of the huddle in practice.

“His concentration, his focus, the timing of the offense was very good,” Fewell said.

The Panthers (5-9) did not make Grier available for interviews Wednesday. They said Grier will be available on Thursday.

Christian McCaffrey said Grier is a “great leader.”

“At the end of the day it is about executing,” McCaffrey said. “We will see, but I am definitely excited to play next to him. I know he is going to come in and give it his best.”

Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore has flourished recently with Allen at quarterback, averaging more than 100 yards receiving per contest over his past seven games.

He said he's not worried about the transition to a new quarterback.

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“Not really, there's no concerns,” Moore said. “Everybody has the same game plan at the end of the day so we all have to go out and execute it. I'm going to still do my job.”

Colts coach Frank Reich said his team's preparations won't change much if Grier starts for the Panthers. Reich, who once played quarterback for the Panthers, indicated the Colts plan to go back and study tape of Grier from preseason games and at West Virginia.

“It's a two-fold thing," Reich said. “You're looking for information on him and the kind of throws that he makes. The flip side to that is it's about the system. They're not going to really change the system this late in the year. Their system is what it is.”

Allen also was unavailable for interviews on Wednesday.

The Panthers' quarterback situation remains very much in flux moving forward.

Cam Newton is coming off surgery on his foot to repair a Lisfranc injury, and owner David Tepper has said the team will have to evaluate how Newton recovers before making a decision on his long-term future with the club. The Panthers can trade or release Newton and save $19 million under next year's cap, while taking only a $2.1 million cap hit in 2020.

Allen had success early, winning four of his first five starts this season but is 0-6 since as the Panthers have fallen to last place in the NFC South. The 12-game tape the team has on Allen should be enough to fully evaluate him, but the fact the team could be replacing him this late in the season is a strong indication they aren't completely sold on him.

Grier is still the great unknown, and the Panthers feel this is the best time to see him perform with the team out of the playoff hunt.