The Panthers are inexperienced at quarterback behind Cam Newton. After letting Derek Anderson walk in free agency, Carolina has Garrett Gilbert, its third-stringer last season, rookie Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke.
Heinicke, claimed by the Panthers on April 16 after the Texans waived him, took nine snaps last season in Houston. That’s nine more than Allen or Gilbert have in the NFL.
Gilbert remains the favorite to win the No. 2 job, but Carolina has carried three quarterbacks every year since 2014.
“Hopefully I play well in the preseason,” Heinicke said, via Bryan Strickland of the team website. “Garrett is doing a great job. Kyle is doing a great job. Cam is coaching us up.
“I love it here. It’s probably my favorite locker room that I’ve been in. Everyone is getting along, having a good time, helping each other out. It’s a real family atmosphere.”
Heinicke threw for 132 career touchdowns at Old Dominion. He ran for 22 scores.
The Vikings, with Norv Turner as their offensive coordinator, signed him as a college free agent following the 2015 draft. The Panthers hired Turner as their new offensive coordinator this offseason.
“[The Vikings] signed Taylor as a free agent because he was an extremely productive college player,” Turner said. “[Assistant coach] Scott [Turner] went to Old Dominion and worked him out and was excited about his arm talent and his physical skills.
“He did a good job for us in Minnesota. Things work out different in different places, and it didn’t work out for him in Minnesota, but he did contribute in Houston. He’s a guy that can be a productive football player.”
After practice squad stints in New England and Houston last season, Heinicke earned a promotion to the Texans’ 53-player roster in December. He played in mop-up duty against the Steelers, completing his only pass attempt for 10 yards.
“It was cool to finally get that under my belt, to be able to finally say that I played in a regular-season game,” Heinicke said. “I know the feeling of that now, the speed of it.”
That’s more than the other backup quarterbacks on the team’s roster can say.