Can Sam Darnold Help the Panthers Next Season?

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Can Sam Darnold Help the Panthers Next Season?
Former New York Jet and now Quarterback for the Carolina Panthers Sam Darnold. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/AFP

The Sam Darnold saga in New York came to an end this week as the Panthers traded for him, giving up a 6th round pick this year and their 2nd and 4th in next season’s draft. After struggling in the Big Apple, can the once highly-touted prospect turn it around in Carolina?

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His Time in NY.

After being taken as the third overall pick in the 2018 draft, Darnold immediately came in and started the season as the #1 for the Jets making him the youngest opening day starting QB since the AFL-NFL merger.

It was an up and down career for him, he showed bits of good, and a fair bit of terrible. His three years in NY ended with 38 starts, 45 TDs and 39 interceptions. Not a good ratio in terms of good vs. bad, and when you add in the 20 fumbles in those three years there’s definitely flags there.

Having Adam Gase as head coach definitely didn’t help Darnold or the Jets as a franchise, so the hope is that leaving that coaching behind and moving somewhere new will spark his career, there was never a chance of the Jets going over their 6.5 win total line provided by US sportsbooks.

The main hope in my opinion is that Darnold is still remarkably young for someone who’s had 3 years starting in the league; At just 23 years old he’s younger than Joe Burrow who was drafted last season. So providing he’s not been completely ruined already there’s the potential of a long career ahead of him.

How’s It Looking For Him in Carolina?

Talk about a change of scene, he’s going from arguably the worst coach in the NFL to be working under Matt Rhule who had a great college career. Rhule also had a good start in the big leagues with the Panthers last season, having to do most of the year without their main man Christian McCaffrey.

Darnold comes in as competition for Teddy Bridgewater who was fine at QB for the team last year. From the outside I’d expect Darnold to be leading the competition for the starting position, as you don’t tend to give up trade assets unless you’re starting the guy, but it should be a good fight between the two.

Bridgewater did seem to fall apart down the stretch last year and a change at QB always seemed likely, there was talk of a mega-trade for Watson, they were reportedly in for Matthew Stafford and every other name possibly available at the position, and there’s talk of Bridgewater getting traded away should anyone come in for him, but at around $18M it would seem unlikely that someone would take that contract on.

Former New York Jet Sam Darnold #14 reacts following last season’s win over the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/AFP

The Future Is Bright?

He’s landed in a good spot, if he can show he’s still an NFL starting QB then there should be a good career ahead of him. The Panthers have the 8th pick in the draft, and with it seeming like at least 4 QBs will be taken before they get to pick they will get a very good talent at that spot.

They’ve got the best running back in the game when he’s healthy in McCaffrey and DJ Moore and Robby Anderson both topped 1,000 yards last season. The tight end position needs some work, with a little luck in front of them they could possibly grab Kyle Pitts which would be huge for them, although the possibility of a Darnold to D.Arnold TD connection after they brought in Dan Arnold from the Cardinals may prove too tempting.

Defensive tackle Derrick Brown #95 of the Carolina Panthers leads the team from the tunnel. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/AFP

What Can Sam Darnold Do For the Panthers?

We’ve got to take a leap of faith and trust that Darnold will be able to show why he was taken as the 3rd pick just three years ago. His career in NY didn’t go as planned, but he did show glimpses. He’s mobile, accurate on short passes and has never had the coaching or talent around him that will present itself in Carolina.

The best betting sites have the Panthers around 20th best odds for the Superbowl next year, and 3rd favorites for the NFC South with the Falcons having larger odds than they do.

Will they go over their expected 7.5 wins for the season? It’s a very tough division but the Panthers have a top 5 easiest schedule based on last years wins, and with McCaffrey returning they should go pretty close to it.

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