4 key Panthers storylines to watch over final five games in 2022

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Chuba Hubbard
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Chuba Hubbard /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Sam Darnold /

Can the Carolina Panthers count on Sam Darnold?

Considering how bleak things looked for Sam Darnold before the 2022 season began, he’s got to be happy with how his situation is currently unfolding. Baker Mayfield’s lack of production and P.J. Walker’s injury thrust the former USC star into the starting lineup once again in Week 12 against the Denver Broncos and it was an opportunity the quarterback was keen not to waste.

Darnold looked confident and was effective in a game-manager role. He also made some exceptional throws when needed to ensure the Carolina Panthers comfortably went into their bye week with a win.

This was enough for Steve Wilks to name him the starter moving forward. Something that played a significant role in Mayfield returning from the bye and asking to be released.

Wilks granted his wish, leaving Darnold in complete command under center unless there is a significant drop-off in consistency. Although it was an undeniable positive versus the Broncos, there is enough bad film to suggest that things could go south quickly where the No. 3 overall selection in 2018 is concerned.

The Panthers have a newfound confidence in Darnold. He also has a different demeanor and it’s not just because of the freshly grown beard.

If the Panthers can count on Darnold, then it would be a huge step in the right direction. But looking at his five-year career to date, fans are right to err on the side of caution.