Well, it did not take long for the inevitable to happen. P.J. Walker, an XFL future Hall-of-Famer no doubt, has been signed by the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. The XFL’s MVP led the league Champion Houston Roughnecks to a perfect 5-0 start before the inaugural season was cut short by the COVID-19 virus. That didn’t stop the Panthers’ front office from signing the 25-year-old to pair him up with his former Temple coach in Matt Rhule.
At Temple, Walker was able to put up career numbers that stand as the greatest by any Owl QB. 10,669 passing yards and 74 touchdown passes are only two of the major school passing records set by Walker. Phillip “PJ” Walker graduated in 2016 from Temple, but not before winning the East Division of the ACC his Junior year and then the overall AAC championship in his final year with the Owls.
Walker moved on to the NFL, where he learned from Andrew Luck as a practice squad player in the Indianapolis Colts offensive system under Head Coach Frank Reich. That connection led to the XFL, where Luck put in a good word with his father, Oliver Luck, who happens to be the XFL’s commissioner. Carolina’s interest in Walker does not come as a surprise, given they also signed two other former Owls–but to be honest– it was Walker’s electric play in the XFL that got him signed.
Walker through 5 games in the XFL:
- 65% comp
- 1338 yards
- 15 touchdowns
The QB situation was murky in Carolina, as former 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton was sidelined most of last season. Newton was shown the door just a week ago, after struggling with a Lisfranc fracture in his foot all of 2019. Veteran Teddy Bridgewater was then signed as the new starter. Near the time the Panthers traded Kyle Allen away to the Redskins fora fifth-round draft pick, they also announced that they would be signing the former XFL MVP in Walker. That is two brand new QBs added to the room, with two veterans of the previous Carolina regime being kicked to the curb.
Kyle Allen appeared in 12 games as the quarterback in 2019 for Carolina, going 5-7 as a starter. Allen managed to turn the ball over 23 times while only generating 17 touchdowns. PJ Walker enters as a clear upgrade over Allen in the position, but the move comes just days after the Panthers had announced that they would be signing former New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees backup in Bridgewater.
Speaking of Bridgewater, the move to Carolina seems unexciting for fantasy owners of other Panther skill players such as Christian McCaffery, DJ Moore, and Curtis Samuel. Bridgewater is notorious for not throwing the ball far down the field. He is a prototypical “dink ‘n dunk” passer, utilizing his short pass accuracy to move an offense. Given Head Coach Matt Rhule’s propensity for slinging the rock, the signing of Bridgewater does not seem like a match made in heaven for fantasy. Even less thrilling for Samuel owners is the news that Robbie Anderson has just joined the crew, immediately putting a cap on Samuel’s fantasy ceiling. Both Anderson and Samuel seem built for the same role as downfield burners. The problem is Bridgewater isn’t one to take shots down the field, as seen in his performance last season as a game manager in New Orleans. DJ Moore and McCaffery should be fine no matter who the starter is a quarterback though. Moore may even experience a slight uptick in production, since he thrives off of high-volume short passes–which is what Bridgewater does best.
Theodore Edmond Bridgewater Jr stacks up as the big man on campus compared to Phillip “PJ” Walker Jr in both experiences in the NFL and physical stature. Teddy holds a 3-inch height advantage over Walker and is 2 years older and has 6 years in the league. The Panthers forked over a three-year deal worth $63 million for Bridgewater who went 5-0 last season in place of Brees as the starter. Teddy was merely a QB2 for fantasy purposes in that span, but still managed over 1300 yards, 9 touchdowns, and only 2 interceptions. His outlook is roughly the same in 2020, but with some upside in good matchups in an offense that will lean on CMC more often than not. While PJ and Teddy’s stats over 5 games are similar in yardage and interceptions, Walker nearly doubles Bridgewater in the touchdown department. Yes, I know he was playing versus XFL defenses. I don’t care, he also torched those defenses with his legs on a weekly basis.That’s something I’ll struggle to envision with Teddy as thinking about him on the move brings forth nightmarish flashbacks of his incident in with Minnesota. The point is, it’s not hard to envision an upgraded offense with Walker’s skill-set. He looks like the XFL’s version of Deshaun Watson when on the field.
Most would believe there isn’t a competition. After all, Bridgewater is the clear starter for Carolina given the contract commitment and his 6-year tenure in the league. Walker was more than likely just brought in as a capable backup, but after seeing the tape you can’t help but imagine what the team would be like with PJ under center.
Walker is dazzling with the football in his hands. He has excelled in every stage where he was given the chance. Now on his second stint into the NFL all he needs is a chance. In his recent time with the Houston Roughnecks Walker has shown the ability to improvise when plays break down. He has a strong and accurate arm and great decision making. He’s quick, can extend plays with his legs, and was a true leader to his teammates. All of those skills could tremendously boost the offensive weapons the Carolina Panthers are sending out onto the field on Sundays. Above all, Walker has shown that he can be a winner just as much as Bridgewater.
Regardless of whether he gets the improbable nod as the starter, Walker will make an exciting backup that will push Bridgewater to bring his best. If Teddy falters or the team finds themselves struggling at any point, Walker will be waiting in the wings for his shot at that number one spot.
Miles Peacock is a content writer covering the NFL’s Houston Texans and XFL’s Houston Roughnecks for the Rumboyz.net and Timeskewed.com fantasy sports websites. Follow Miles on Twitter @FF_Peacock.
Can Former XFL MVP P.J. Walker be The QB1 in Carolina?Tweet