5 Panthers players who must stand out at mandatory minicamp in 2022

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Shi Smith
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Shi Smith /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

87. . QB. Carolina Panthers. SAM DARNOLD. 5. player

Sam Darnold – Carolina Panthers QB

It’s been a strong start to OTAs for Sam Darnold according to coaches, players, and the media in attendance. But there is much work ahead for the beleaguered quarterback if he wants to start again for the Carolina Panthers in 2022.

Moving forward with Darnold as the team’s No. 1 option wouldn’t install the greatest confidence in Carolina’s chances for progress. There has been too much wayward production from the signal-caller over his four years in the league to suggest otherwise.

That’s why mandatory minicamp is crucial for Darnold. If he fails to make a positive impression on the team, then it could see the Panthers make a trade for someone like Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo as a result.

Darnold has conducted himself well this offseason with so much speculation hanging over him. The former USC star will get a fully guaranteed $18.85 million whatever happens after Carolina picked up his fifth-year option, but he won’t want his career going out with a whimper and this added urgency behind a better offensive line might make all the difference.

The Panthers drafted Matt Corral at No. 94 overall in the hope he can become their long-term option over time. Asking the Ole Miss product to instantly step in and save the franchise is unfair, so expect another veteran to come on board if Darnold fails to meet objectives next week.

This is the most pressure Darnold has been under since becoming the No. 3 overall selection in 2018. The next few days will tell us plenty about the player’s character in the face of adversity.

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