Carolina Panthers’ Sam Darnold says he’s confident he can be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL

Carolina Panthers’ Sam Darnold says he’s confident he can be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL

A 17-32 record as an NFL starter and the threat of being replaced in the offseason first by Deshaun Watson and now possibly third-round pick Matt Corral didn’t make the starter Carolina Panthers Sam Darnold less confident in his abilities.

“As long as I know what we’re doing, what the defense is doing, I’m confident I can be one of the best quarterbacks in the league,” Darnold said Tuesday, the first time he’s spoken to reporters since. off-season training. has begun.

Coach Matt Rhule, who hasn’t ruled out bringing in a veteran at some point, went so far as to say Darnold is training with an “edge” he’s never seen before.

“What Sam has been through this offseason has been very difficult,” Rhule said. “You’ve got your back against the wall. Everyone’s wondering if you can do this or not. We’ve seen a guy show up who has a bit more of an edge over him. He’s very, very focused.”

But going from concentrate to one of the best quarterbacks in the league would be a big step forward.

Since the New York Jets selected him with the third pick in the 2018 draft, Darnold has consistently ranked among the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. His 33.2 total QBR in 2021, his first year with Carolina, ranked 29th among qualifying quarterbacks.

He ranked 33rd in 2020 with a rating of 32.9, 25th in 2019 at 45.9 and 28th in 2018 at 45.9.

In four seasons, he threw almost as many interceptions (52) as touchdown passes (54). He has a career completion percentage of 59.8% since 2018 which also ranks among the worst in the league.

Numbers like that explain why the Panthers were willing to give up three first-round picks and players for Watson, eventually traded by the Houston Texans to the Cleveland Browns. That’s why Carolina remains interested in acquiring a veteran quarterback.

Among those the Panthers are watching, according to a league source, is Baker Mayfield, whether the Browns agree to pay most of his $18.8 million for 2022 or release him.

“Everyone, including myself, knows the situation,” Darnold said. “But that being said, it doesn’t change my mindset. I have a great attitude towards myself on a daily basis.”

This mindset is all about improving his footwork, which has been an issue since he joined the NFL.

“There were times in the last year where my feet got very…tight, loose is a good word…chaotic,” Darnold said. “It’s just having confidence in my feet and in the system to go out there and put the ball where it needs to be.”

Darnold stopped short, agreeing it’s a breakthrough year for him as he enters the fifth and final year of his rookie contract.

“If I had to think about it like that, I might get caught up in it,” Darnold said. “When I’m in the boardroom, I focus on learning the system. When I’m on the training ground, I focus on running this game.

“And even in games, you’re not focused on, ‘It’s a contract year, I better play.’ As a quarterback, you have to be consistent. You have to be consistent every day and every game. So it’s hard to think about what might happen in the future.

Darnold’s future now lies with new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, the fourth time in his young career the former Southern California star has had to learn a new system.

“It’s really fair to go out there and play every game like it’s my last,” Darnold said. “If I start thinking about this other stuff…playing quarterback is hard enough.”

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