It hasn’t been an easy road for Will Grier’s NFL journey so far, and he’s not even competing for the starting spot with the Carolina Panthers this season.
He is, however, competing to show the NFL that he does belong among its ranks of professional quarterbacks, and Saturday’s preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens was perhaps just the first showcase of Grier’s continued growth as a legitimate NFL signal-caller.
In a battle with XFL star P.J. Walker for the Panthers’ backup quarterback spot, it’s been a back-and-forth battle this preseason. With Walker struggling in the second half of the Ravens’ game, throwing for just eight yards on 1-of-8 passing, Grier’s poised play in the first half couldn’t have come at a better time.
Grier completed 11 of 14 pass attempts for 144 yards, 10.3 yards per attempt, with a 109.5 quarterback rating. He found himself in a nice rhythm, completing nine straight passes at one point. Including a beautiful dart to rookie wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr to open the second quarter.
Receiving the ball in the shotgun formation, Grier found his first read and lofted a perfect deep ball to Marshall, placing the ball right in his waiting arms after beating his man on the outside. The beautiful pass showed off not just his strong arm and pinpoint touch but his ability to trust his reads.
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With a strong command of the second-team offense, leading two drives that should have ended with points on the board, a missed Panthers’ field goal ending a drive with no points, Grier’s ability to push the ball down the field — often shown at West Virginia — should bode well for getting himself back into the backup conversation behind starter Sam Darnold.
After not playing at all in 2020, Grier’s strong first half against the Ravens (playing all but the first drive of the first half) was much needed after a lackluster 31 yard (completing six of 10 passing attempts) showing against the Indianapolis Colts in the Panthers’ first preseason game. Grier’s ability to drive the ball down the field and make throws to beat the opposing defense was on display, but it appears he needs to continue trusting his reads and getting rid of the ball before opposing defenses can bring him down in the backfield — a third down sack leading to a punt.
In Grier’s short NFL career, starting two games at the end of the 2019 season as a rookie, the game was too fast for him. He produced a 224 yard, three interception performance against the Colts in his first-ever start and followed with a miserable 1-for-8 showing in his second start, a four yard completion and an interception his only highlights before being pulled from the game.
Sitting behind former starter Teddy Bridgewater and P.J. Walker last season, despite the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, Grier was given a full year to work on his craft and focus on developing into an NFL quarterback. If anything, despite being a preseason game, the Ravens’ game allowed Grier to show he’s the most confident he’s ever been in the NFL.
With a good showing against the Ravens, accompanied by Walker’s poor showing, it appears Grier is ready to show just whether he can be an NFL quarterback — if that’s for the Panthers or another NFL team remains to be seen.