Sam Darnold – Carolina Panthers QB
- 12 games
- 4-7 record
- 2,527 yards
- 9 touchdowns
- 13 interceptions
- 59.9% completion
Let’s get the elephant out of the room as quickly as possible here and speak of current starter Sam Darnold.
Darnold, for all his faults, is an above-average passer when protected. Which is something the former first-round pick has never been able to say at any point in his career.
Sure, there is nothing particularly flashy about the former New York Jet, and the young quarterback has struggled mightily at points with decision-making and getting flushed from clean pockets. However, the arm talent is there, the mechanics are better than they’ve ever been, and he is just now coming into the age where most quarterbacks start reaching their potential.
Something that can’t be said for many fifth-year players.
Darnold has the advantage over any potential replacement of having a year with the team and a full offseason to learn the new system being implemented by offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. But some tension between him and the increasingly volatile Robby Anderson could scupper the Carolina Panthers and their chances of progression.
A system that should be predicated on a solid run game and quick, high percentage passes which is a very quarterback-friendly scheme that will fit into what Darnold does well and mask where the signal-caller struggles. Namely putting too much weight on the young player’s shoulders.
The style of play for Darnold is particularly hard to pin down as there has been zero consistency as far as the scheme goes. However, there are some things to look at to try and figure this out.
Darnold is at his best when throwing quick passes to open receivers. These sharp attacks allow the quarterback to develop a rhythm and enough confidence to try the deep ball if it’s there.
This is where things take a significant dive, however.
Part of this is on the shoulders of a paper mache offensive line breaking down in clear passing situations but Darnold also crumbled when the lights were brightest and it was all on him to win the game. Going 1-4 in contests that were decided by a score or less when the Panthers had the opportunity to win is not a great record by any metric and there were countless examples of this throughout the 2021 season.
However, Darnold flashed his ability to make things happen on a masterful drive to tie the game late against the Minnesota Vikings. While this is not necessarily a notable strength or something to lean on, the quarterback has the capability to shock people.
Projected record: 7-10
Early wins against a stunted Cleveland Browns squad and a questionably quarterbacked Pittsburgh Steelers would help. But there is just no telling for sure based on what we’ve seen from Darnold to date.