Sam Darnold was the No. 3 overall pick by the New York Jets back in 2018. He certainly didn’t play up to that draft pick in three seasons with the team, but he is still very young, turning just 24 next month. The Carolina Panthers thought he was worth a flyer, trading next year’s second-round pick, along with a 2021 sixth and 2022 fourth for him.
Now, Darnold is entrenched as the starting quarterback for the Panthers. The team dealt Teddy Bridgewater, the 2020 starter, to the Denver Broncos, and the team currently features backups in P.J. Walker, Will Grier, and Tommy Stevens, no one that is a huge threat to Darnold. It also passed on the chance to take a quarterback at No. 8 overall, going with cornerback Jaycee Horn.
Every NFL starting quarterback faces a ton of pressure, especially one who is already something of a reclamation project like Darnold. However, the media attention in Charlotte is nothing like what it is in New York. In an interview with the Panthers website, he was asked if he felt a difference so far, and gave an interesting, if diplomatic, answer.
“It depends on how you see it,” Darnold said. “I’ve always had high expectations for myself, first and foremost. Expectations outside of that, to be honest, besides my teammates and my coaches, it doesn’t mean a whole lot.”
Sam Darnold is working from (and sleeping on) the ground floor https://t.co/IKcMUZ1qKa
— Darin Gantt (@daringantt) May 25, 2021
“I think for me, it’s about what we expect as a team, what we expect to win, and for me, it’s about completing the ball and getting the team down the field and scoring touchdowns,” he continued. “That’s all I care about. As long as we do that and I do my job, we’re all good.”
He’s also bouncing back from some tough early career rejection, though it sounds like the Panthers have fully embraced him thus far. More, from Panthers.com:
“To go from being unwanted to being wanted is huge,” Darnold said. “Getting that news that you’re going to be traded, of a team saying, ‘Hey, we didn’t want you,” for whatever reason, is hard.
“But right now, I feel great about it, and I’m excited to get here, and get started.”
The Carolina Panthers were a bit disappointing last year with Bridgewater under center, and star running back Christian McCaffrey injured for most of the season. Sam Darnold should give them a much higher ceiling, while the team has far more weapons than what Darnold was afforded in New York, with strong receivers like D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson, a former teammate of his. If everything clicks, this could be an impressive second act for the former USC gunslinger.