Panthers fire two coaches, keep PJ Walker as starter vs. Falcons: ‘We’re going to rally behind PJ’

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Less than a month after the Carolina Panthers fired head coach Matt Rhule following a 1-4 start, interim coach Steve Wilks made two more notable changes to the coaching staff just one day after their 42-21 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

The team announced Monday that it would be parting ways with cornerbacks coach Evan Cooper and defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni, but Wilks said during his press conference that the decision was not in response to Sunday’s loss.

“I just felt like over a period of time – I’ve been evaluating everyone, players and coaches. It wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction from yesterday. It’s just something that I felt like we needed to change and that’s what I did. I wish both of those individuals nothing but the best.”

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He continued: “It’s not so much, again, those particular two spots. I’ve been evaluating everyone – coaches, players and, once again, I just felt like that position, those positions needed a change.” 

Cooper has been with the Panthers since 2020, while Pasqualoni, the former head coach at Syracuse, joined the Panthers this offseason.

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Wilks also announced that P.J. Walker will be starting in a divisional game against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday, but he noted that the decision for that position will be “week-to-week.”

He added that Baker Mayfield will continue to serve as backup but noted that the team has “no ambitions or conversations of trying to move anyone” following news that Sam Darnold had been activated to the 53-man roster.

Walker went 3 for 10 for 9 yards with two interceptions in the first half before being relieved by Mayfield, prompting questions over why Wilks would continue to use him as a starter during a short week.

“I would say trust the process and trust my decision-making,” he said in defense of his decision. “We all have bad games. P.J. wasn’t the only one. … We’re going to rally behind P.J. and definitely give him the things that he needs from a game-plan standpoint that he can go out and execute.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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