5 Panthers players who have blown away early expectations in 2021

(Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports) Frankie Luvu
(Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports) Frankie Luvu /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Sam Darnold – Carolina Panthers QB

Acquiring Sam Darnold via trade from the New York Jets was a franchise-altering gamble by the Carolina Panthers. Seeing the talent through three years of miserable failure at MetLife Stadium was no doubt difficult, but having belief in the quarterback’s ability is something that appears to be paying off handsomely.

Darnold has been absolutely fantastic so far. His poise in the pocket is first class and although the odd mistake is still there on occasions, the hard work he’s done with quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan this offseason has been worth its weight in gold.

It’s easy to get carried away where Darnold is concerned. Probably because his career was hanging in the balance before joining Carolina.

Considering the struggles Zach Wilson is going through on the Jets, it must be such a relief for Darnold to be away from New York. Something that’s bringing about a complete contrast in fortunes.

Even areas that posed the most concern such as decision-making under pressure and footwork have impressed those watching on. Darnold’s completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 888 yards, three touchdowns, and just one interception. He’s also surpassed his career-high with three rushing scores in as many games.

If Darnold can make further improvements and keep this positive momentum going, then there’s just no telling how much better he can get.