How much pressure is on Panthers QB Sam Darnold this offseason?

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

How much pressure is on Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold during an immensely important offseason for the player in 2022? 

It was probably a relief for Sam Darnold to get himself back down to football activities after so much uncertainty surrounding his future this offseason. The Carolina Panthers made no secret about their pursuit of finding an upgrade and in fairness to those in power, they kept the signal-caller well informed of developments throughout.

In truth, things couldn’t have gone much better from Darnold‘s point of view. The Panthers failed to land a big fish in the trade market and waited until the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft to find a college prospect when Matt Corral came on board.

This could lead to Darnold having true competition for a starting role for the first time in his NFL career entering Year 5. Something that has reportedly given the former USC star more edge during the opening stages of offseason workouts.

Talk is cheap for Darnold after so much underachievement. Unless things come together quickly in the coming weeks, then it’s a tough sell giving him another campaign under center.

Of course, the Panthers have kept their options option at the most important position on the field. They have plenty of salary-cap space to make another move if required, with speculation continuing surrounding another trade for someone like Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo if the organization feels it can benefit them short-term.

Sam Darnold must focus on what he can control this offseason

This is yet another element out of Darnold’s control, to a certain extent. But if the signal-caller takes on the additional pressure and harnesses it in a positive manner, then it might convince the coaching staff to give him one more shot at redemption.

Corral’s development is also crucial. The Panthers clearly think a lot of the Ole Miss product, but whether this can translate into someone that can make his presence felt right out of the gate is yet to be determined.

For someone that boasts a career completion percentage of 59.8 percent and a 54-52 touchdown-to-interception rate, to get this sort of opportunity is a microcosm of how badly the Panthers have handled things at the quarterback spot since Rhule assumed command. A chance that Darnold would be wise not to waste.

There is still no shortage of confidence from Darnold despite enough evidence to suggest otherwise. The player claimed he could still be one of the league’s best during some recent media availability, with the player also outlining an increased sense of urgency that can also help.

"“It’s really just going out there and playing every play like it’s my last. If I start thinking about that other stuff … playing quarterback is hard enough.”"

Plenty of twists and turns are sure to come for Darnold and the Panthers before a Week 1 starting quarterback is confirmed. He somehow still finds himself in the driving seat after Carolina picked up his fifth-year option, but the leash is now unbelievably short and might see him occupying a backup role if senior figures within the organization are not entirely convinced.

If there was ever a time for Darnold to put everything together, it’s now. But the prospect of him being a lost cause at this stage cannot be ruled out, either.

It’s a fine line.

One that could dictate just which way Carolina’s season will go in 2022.

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