Grading Sam Darnold’s first three games as Carolina Panthers QB

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /
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Sam Darnold
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Sam Darnold vs. New York Jets – Week 1

This was probably a nice first game for Sam Darnold. Sticking it to the team that gave up on him in favor of Zach Wilson was all the motivation the quarterback needed on his full debut for the Carolina Panthers.

Darnold’s performance overall was solid in this one. He demonstrated some improved footwork and wasn’t afraid to sit in the pocket when pressure inevitably came his way.

The No. 3 overall selection in 2018 missed a couple of red-zone throws and there was the fumble on fourth-down after a miscommunication with Giovanni Ricci. But his composure during the two-minute drill left plenty of reasons to be encouraged.

Things regressed somewhat in the second half, which saw the offense stutter and the tempo become a little flat. Something that was evident throughout the 2020 season in Carolina.

Grade: B+

This was as good as the Panthers and Darnold could have hoped. They weren’t in any real danger at any stage outside of a slight blip in the third quarter, with Carolina’s defense seeing the game out in convincing fashion to take some of the heat off their quarterback.

Christian McCaffrey’s return to the lineup was another massive boost. One that Darnold and the Panthers leaned on heavily.