The Panthers acquired Darnold from the New York Jets earlier this year. Despite the new acquisition, there was still speculation Carolina might look to add a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Well, the Panthers had two intriguing options at quarterback at pick No. 9. Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance were all off the board. But both Justin Fields and Mac Jones were still waiting to hear their names called. Instead, the Panthers got some help on the defensive side of the ball and took South Carolina defensive back Jaycee Horn.
Matt Rhule‘s decision to get some help in the secondary instead of taking a quarterback is telling. It basically reaffirms he’s confident in Darnold’s abilities. The Panthers head coach admitted as much on the Rich Eisen Show this week.
“I love those guys and I think they’re gonna be great NFL players. I just think for us, when we got Sam and knowing he’s 23-years-old, just turned 24, we just felt like Sam plus another player would be better for the team overall,” Rhule said, via NFL.com. “We’re just trying to build the whole team and I just believe in Sam, I believe that he deserves the opportunity to go out and play with us. I think those other young quarterbacks are gonna be fantastic players, but the hit rate on first-round quarterbacks isn’t real, real high, and to have a chance to get Jaycee Horn and have Sam Darnold, we just kind of felt like, ‘Hey this is two for one.’ Now, we just have to make sure Sam’s a great player for us.”
This upcoming season will serve as a tryout year for Sam Darnold.
If he plays well, he’ll be in line for a big contract from the Panthers. If he plays poorly, his stay in Carolina won’t last long.
Luckily for Darnold, his head coach is giving him a fair chance. Matt Rhule has the utmost confidence in the former USC star.