5 Panthers players who need to realize their potential in 2021

Dean Jones
(Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports) Donte Jackson
(Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports) Donte Jackson /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold and Matt Rhule /

Sam Darnold – Carolina Panthers QB

This is the most obvious name for the list. Sam Darnold has the weight of the world on his shoulders after the Carolina Panthers acquired the quarterback via trade from the New York Jets this offseason, which represents a massive gamble that may or may not work out.

The Panthers aren’t paying that much to find out whether Darnold has what it takes to be a competent signal-caller. After a flurry of trade activity during the 2021 NFL Draft, Carolina is giving up what equates to a second-rounder for a starting quarterback, which could be a real steal if the USC product makes a difference.

Darnold is certainly getting a pass for his three years at MetLife Stadium. The organization did him absolutely no favors with a lack of talent and incompetent coaching, so there is plenty of hope he can revive his career in a more structured set-up on the Panthers.

The arm talent is there, even if the decision-making has been a little suspect where Darnold is concerned. If the player wants to fully realize his potential, he should treat the 2021 season as his rookie campaign and a clean slate from which to build a successful NFL career.

If Darnold somehow cannot make the most out of this latest starting chance, it will leave the Panthers back at square one in pursuit of finding a long-term player at the most important position on the field.

It will also be the end of Darnold’s chances of ever reaching expectations.