The Carolina Panthers could be at a franchise crossroads. Quarterback Cam Newton hasn’t looked like himself and the results bear that out.

After missing practice all week with an aggravated sprained ankle, Newton will miss Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, the Panthers announced Friday. The 0-2 Panthers now hand the reigns over to second-year signal caller and Scottsdale, Ariz. native Kyle Allen.

Among NFL fans, Allen is a relative unknown. So, who, exactly, is he?

For one, Allen was a confident child.

That confidence was perhaps not misplaced. Allen was the nation’s top-ranked quarterback in 2014 among top recruiting sites (ESPN, Rivals, Scout and 247Sports) following a career that saw him throw for more than 8,000 yards and 86 touchdowns at Desert Mountain High School.

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He got an early taste of being teammates with Christian McCaffrey, playing alongside the running back in the 2014 Army All-American Bowl.

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He would commit to Texas A&M, where he became teammates with Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray in 2015, and beat Murray out for the Aggies starting job. Allen led the team in passing and total offense that season, after earning Liberty Bowl MVP-honors the year before when he threw for 294 yards and four touchdowns against West Virginia.

Murray took part in “wildcat” run packages and replaced Allen as the starter in late October of the 2015 season.

Both quarterbacks eventually departed, with Murray transferring to Oklahoma and Allen to Houston, where he played five games in 2017. Allen set the Cougars single-game completion percentage record when he went 31-of-33 (93.9 percent) passing against Rice.

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When Allen takes the field Sunday, he will become one of 20 quarterbacks age 26 or younger to start a Week 3 game, the most in a single week in the Super Bowl era, according to NFL Research. He will also become the 40th different quarterback to start a game this season, the most through the first three weeks of an NFL season, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

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Allen, an undrafted free agent in 2018, will be backed up by 2019 third-round pick Will Grier.

The timetable for Newton’s return is uncertain but it’s clear that Panthers offensive coordinator Norv Turner has held back on utilizing Newton as a running threat this season.

The 30-year-old former league MVP ran the ball at least 90 times in each of the first eight seasons of his career. This year, he’s only run the ball five times for -2 yards through two games. Newton hasn’t been effective through the air, either. He’s only completed 56.2 percent of his passes for 572 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception.

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Despite the physical punishment Newton has taken over the years, he has only missed five games over his nine-year career. Sunday will mark his sixth.

Newton battled a shoulder injury in 2018 and, with the team eliminated from playoff contention, the Panthers turned to their backup, Allen, to close out the season against the New Orleans Saints.

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Allen went 16-of-27 passing for 228 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions on the way to a 33-14 victory, snapping Carolina’s seven-game losing streak.

The Panthers are hoping for a similar performance this Sunday.

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