5 ways Panthers QB Sam Darnold can make his former team pay in Week 1

(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) Sam Darnold
(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) Sam Darnold /
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Sam Darnold
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Sam Darnold needs to make his chances count

One of the primary reasons why Teddy Bridgewater was shipped to the Denver Broncos was his failure to make red-zone opportunities count. Not all on the quarterback, obviously, but the same cannot happen to Sam Darnold if he truly wants to make a good go of things with the Carolina Panthers.

It might have only been against the second-string defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers in their preseason finale, but Darnold did look quite good inside the 20-yard line. Touchdowns on a screen to Terrace Marshall Jr. and a laser to Robby Anderson left many reasons to be encouraged, but sterner tests are undoubtedly on the horizon.

Not settling for field goals is the ultimate objective for Carolina’s offense in 2021. Time and time again this came back to haunt them in key moments last time around, so the task will fall on Joe Brady to put his playmakers – Darnold included – in the best possible position to succeed.

The New York Jets don’t have much quality on their defense, especially since Carl Lawson is already out for the season following an exceptional training camp.

Darnold knows what some of them are about. But exploiting this with scores early and often is the best way to make his former employers pay with an opening day loss.