4 second-year Carolina Panthers players with most at stake in 2022

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /
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Carolina Panthers
(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

SAM DARNOLD. 4. player. 87. . QB. Carolina Panthers

Sam Darnold – Carolina Panthers QB

As of right now, Sam Darnold will be starting for the Carolina Panthers in Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns. However, this is far from set in stone given the speculation surrounding a potential trade for either Jimmy Garoppolo or Baker Mayfield before training camp.

Darnold didn’t do enough to provide any sort of assurances he was the team’s long-term starter. Carolina made their intentions clear about finding an upgrade this offseason, but with only Matt Corral coming on board via the draft, this represents arguably the best-case scenario for the former USC star.

At least for now, anyway.

Ben McAdoo’s recent comments about things being “kind of new” for Darnold despite entering the final year of his rookie deal were bizarre, to put it mildly. The signal-caller has had countless chances and the same problems keep emerging, so going into the campaign as Carolina’s No. 1 option might be a gamble too far for Matt Rhule.

This is all out of Darnold’s hands. All he can do is keep displaying the right attitude in practice and continue emerging as a leader despite the ongoing scrutiny about his future.

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Darnold has his work cut out and might not have been given this chance had the Panthers not picked up his fifth-year option with a fully guaranteed $18.85 million. But this is going to be a stern test of the player’s character in no uncertain terms.