Panthers Name Sam Darnold the Starter

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jan 9, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) gets past Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end William Gholston (92) in the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Despite speculation that the Panthers could trade for disgruntled quarterback Baker Mayfield, the team announced on Tuesday that Sam Darnold remains the starting quarterback heading into the 2022 season.

A one-time third overall pick in the NFL Draft, Sam Darnold went from the future of the NY Jets organization to on the trade block in just three years. Then, prior to the 2021 season, the Jets dealt Darnold to the Panthers for three late-round draft picks.

Apr 26, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Sam Darnold (Southern California) is greeted by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the number three overall pick to the New York Jets in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately for both Darnold and the Panthers, the first season in Carolina was not great. The 24-year-old started 11 games in Carolina while battling multiple injuries. In those 11 starts, he threw for 2527 yards and nine touchdowns to 13 interceptions. He was also sacked 25 times and fumbled the ball nine times.

Darnold’s 7.3 intended air yards per target were the lowest of his career, as were his completed yar yards per pass attempt. He had just 74.5% of passes on target and 18.5% of his passes were rated as poor, which was the second-highest mark of his career.

Despite Darnold’s pedigree, it’s entirely possible that he never materializes into the type of quarterback many people were expecting. The Panthers are obviously tied to him – slightly – due to the draft capital they gave up, but they have shown a willingness to bench Darnold before and would certainly be willing to do it again should he start the year out poorly.

As with any words from a head coach five months before the season starts, it’s best to take them with a large grain of salt. In truth, we might still have no idea who opens the year under center in Carolina.

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