Could Sam Darnold’s quiet confidence propel the Panthers in Week 12?

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

Could quarterback Sam Darnold’s quiet confidence inspire the Carolina Panthers to victory in Week 12 against the Denver Broncos?

It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions for Sam Darnold this week. The Carolina Panthers made an expected move to install him as their starting quarterback, which came after another abysmal outing from Baker Mayfield at the Baltimore Ravens in Week 11 that played a leading role in the team’s eventual demise.

Darnold‘s been on the outside looking this season due to injury. But a constant stream of failings at football’s most pivotal position and P.J. Walker’s ankle complication left Steve Wilks with no option other than to go back and provide the former USC stud with one more shot at redemption.

If Mayfield’s situation last week was any indication, Darnold is also entering a last-chance saloon scenario with Walker expected to return after Carolina’s much-needed bye week. This is also a high-pressure situation with significant ramifications for the signal-caller’s future beyond the current campaign.

Should the No. 3 overall selection in 2018 fail to meet expectations, then the uncertainty surrounding his future aspirations will only grow. Darnold could occupy a backup role somewhere else in 2023. Still, he’s not given up hope of potentially earning a starting job despite the evident lack of production since entering the league.

Sam Darnold’s situation with the Carolina Panthers is precarious

Darnold didn’t waste his time on injured/reserve feeling sorry for himself. The fifth-year-pro enlisted the help of Carolina’s ever-improving defense to try and make adjustments, which has brought around an added sense of personal belief that strides can be made at long last.

"“It was just conversations that ended up popping up. It wasn’t me trying to gain an edge or anything like that. It was just talking with the guys, and then all of a sudden, those conversations popped up. Football is fun, man; football is a fun game. So whenever you get a chance to talk about ball with the fellas, it’s always fun to learn.”"

This is a positive step for Darnold and a sign of his growing maturity. But the task awaiting him against the Denver Broncos’ imposing defense is a steep one.

With that being said, Darnold has weapons around him and the best offensive line he’s ever worked behind. Carolina will center their focus on establishing the run with D’Onta Foreman, which could get the signal-caller in more manageable situations if things go better than they did last time out versus a dominant Ravens defensive front seven.

Darnold’s always had the arm strength and his ability to generate momentum on the ground is underrated. However, the processing, footwork, and decision-making problems that forced the Panthers to go in a completely different direction this offseason cannot be ignored.

It’s a precarious situation that could go either way, to be honest. Darnold’s quiet confidence has been great to see, but it will count for nothing whatsoever if the player cannot capitalize on what could be his final chance to prove beyond all doubt he can become a productive NFL starter.

The Panthers aren’t under any great pressure given their 3-8 record. If nothing else, this should give Darnold a sense of freedom within offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s scheme, which came in for heavy criticism once again after another dismal example of play-calling in Week 11.

Darnold must put up or shut up. Providing he gets off to a good start and the weather doesn’t impact proceedings too much, he has a chance to stake a longer claim as the team’s No. 1 option for their remaining games in 2022.

But as we’ve seen plenty over Darnold’s career, it could all collapse in the blink of an eye.

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