5 early winners from the Carolina Panthers 2021 offseason program

Dean Jones
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Christian McCaffrey
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Christian McCaffrey /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Sam Darnold – Carolina Panthers QB

Walking into OTAs and mandatory minicamp must have been a refreshing experience for Sam Darnold. The quarterback is now surrounded by progressive coaches and prolific weapons in the passing game, which is a far cry from anything he experienced during his time with the New York Jets.

The Carolina Panthers are fully confident in Darnold turning his career around in this sort of environment. He’s unlikely to get another opportunity elsewhere, so adjusting quickly and commanding the respect of his teammates is absolutely imperative to his chances when competitive action gets underway.

At least from the outside looking in, Darnold has settled in well. This didn’t go unnoticed by Christian McCaffrey, who praised his leadership ability in the huddle – which is always half the battle when arriving somewhere new.

Darnold is one of the big early winners for the simple fact he isn’t having to go through more turmoil at MetLife Stadium. The Jets did absolutely nothing to develop the No. 3 overall selection in 2018 and wasted no time in moving on from him when another exciting college prospect was within their grasp.

That’s all water under the bridge.

What’s important for Darnold is making a better go of what appears to be a fantastic opportunity in Carolina. One that will ultimately determine his long-term aspirations as a starter.

If the protection gives him enough time in the pocket, then it’s hard to see a situation where Darnold doesn’t make some significant strides forward next season.

Next. 5 strangest moves of the Carolina Panthers 2021 offseason so far. dark

Only time will tell as to whether Darnold has what it takes.