5 big Carolina Panthers storylines to watch during 2021 season

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Christian McCaffrey /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Is Sam Darnold the answer at quarterback?

This storyline is a no-brainer as it’s been talked about since the day he was acquired in April. Can Sam Darnold take the next step in his career and be the Panthers answer at quarterback?

This question might take a few games to figure out or it could take the entire year. But either way, we’ll have a much clearer idea of what kind of QB Darnold will be in just a few weeks.

Besides the offensive line, which should be better than what he had with the New York Jets, Darnold has been surrounded with offensive talent in Carolina. He’ll be reunited with wide receiver Robby Anderson, and have DJ Moore, Terrace Marshall Jr., Christian McCaffrey and Dan Arnold as his top weapons.

The former third-overall draft pick was simply put, not very good with the Jets. He showed flashes but couldn’t prevent turnovers. The Panthers are hoping he’ll be rejuvenated in Carolina, and he’ll have his first chance in Week 1 against his former team.

The Panthers opted to pass drafting a quarterback this year, and have relayed that the 23-year-old Darnold is their guy. But he must take a big step to show he is a franchise quarterback. He was one of the league’s worst starting quarterbacks last season, so he should only go up from there.

One of the first ways to prove he is the guy is to help Carolina improve its red-zone offense. With weapons like McCaffrey, Moore and Anderson around him, Darnold just has to be reliable and come up clutch when needed.

All the pressure won’t be on him with a potentially solid defense, which is already a plus from when he was with the Jets.

Buckle up, because this will be the biggest storyline to watch this season.

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