Sam Darnold must play his game and not the occasion vs. Jets

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

30. CBS. 1 PM ET. 0-0. 87. Panthers -3.5. 0-0. Sunday, Sept 12

Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold must play his own game and not the occasion when he takes on the New York Jets in Week 1.

The nerves will no doubt be building for Sam Darnold as he gets set for his competitive debut with the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. And as it happens, the quarterback gets an instant opportunity to put one over on his former team.

League schedule-makers threw up an opening day fixture of immense intrigue by putting Darnold and the Panthers against the New York Jets at Bank of America Stadium. A chance for the signal-caller to prove he wasn’t given a fair shake by the team that selected him No. 3 overall in 2018.

Darnold landed in a much better situation when Carolina agreed to hand over three draft picks to bring him on board. The talent around the USC product is far superior to anything he experienced at MetLife Stadium, although the offensive line remains an area of substantial concern.

If Darnold can get off on the right foot versus his old employers and the man hand-picked to replace him in Zach Wilson, it might be the springboard to bigger and better things moving forward.

In order for Darnold to accomplish this, he has to keep his emotions in check.

Turning out for your new team on debut is enough to fuel some additional adrenaline. That’s without your opening contest of the season coming against the organization that gave up on him this offseason.

Sam Darnold must remain composed under the spotlight in Week 1.

Darnold appears to be a calm character. He’s not the vocal leader that the Panthers had in Cam Newton, but the player has generated some real support from his teammates to such an extent they all believe in his capabilities to lead them where they want to go.

This is a game Darnold was probably waiting to circle. It just so happens to come in Week 1.

How the signal-caller performs is going to tell us plenty about how his time with the Panthers might go. Darnold won’t get another chance to make a good first impression – sticking it to his ex-team is just the icing on the cake.

If one were to offer Darnold advice before this one, it would be simple.

Play your own game and not the occasion.

That’s easier said than done. And there’s no telling what a torrid three years on the Jets did to his confidence.

But if Darnold can take everything in his stride and make the correct decisions under the spotlight, it should come with an opening day victory against a team that underwent a substantial makeover during the recent preparation period.

Darnold admitted following the trade that the decision stung. Something he can use as extra motivation in pursuit of providing those wrong who’ve already written off his chances.

He’ll get plenty of help from his primary playmakers on both sides of the ball. Having the league’s best dual-threat player alongside him in Christian McCaffrey is another big shot in the arm.

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Composure under pressure separates the good quarterbacks from the great. We’re about to find out just how much of this Darnold possesses in Week 1.