5 players who will make or break the Carolina Panthers season in 2021

Dean Jones
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Dan Arnold
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Dan Arnold /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Sam Darnold – Carolina Panthers QB

There isn’t much more that needs to be said about Sam Darnold.

Either he makes this opportunity with the Carolina Panthers count. Or he’ll find life extremely difficult getting an NFL starting job again.

Trading for Darnold from the New York Jets had a sense of settlement about it. It’s clear the Panthers were going to move on from Teddy Bridgewater no matter what, so after bids for Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson failed, Carolina pulled the trigger on the former No. 3 overall selection.

It’s feast or famine.

Make of break.

And the Panthers’ short-term future depends on his success.

Darnold has a lot of likable qualities, even though one didn’t see much of them in New York. Coming into a better setup with far more talent to utilize in the passing game means there are no more excuses for the player. And a strong start is absolutely pivotal.

It won’t take long to figure out whether Darnold is the man to lead Carolina long term. There is an opportunity for the signal-caller to get off to a hot start. If he cannot, things will only get more difficult as the campaign progresses.

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High stakes for Darnold and the Panthers. It will be interesting to see which way the pendulum swings.