A lot is being made of Sam Darnold opening his new chapter with the Panthers against his ex. But Sunday’s match-up against the Jets isn’t a revenge game. It’s not going to determine the season and it’s not going to determine if Darnold is the quarterback everyone thought he would be when he was selected as the 3rd overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Sam’s job Sunday is simple. Play mistake-free football and get the rock into the hands of his play-makers – and that starts with getting back to basics.
“Keeping calm feet in the pocket and making sure that translates, not only to practice, but on the field during the game,” Darnold said during his Wednesday press conference. “For me it’s just going back to basics; Making sure I’m sticking with my reads, understanding coverages and different checks that we have. It’s playing football. It’s going back to what I do best and that’s just relaxing and letting the game come to me.”
That will be the key for Sam – not trying to do too much and staying calmly within in his game. If he does that, the Panthers’ bevy of play makers will do the rest.
“I’m confident in Sam,” Rhule said when asked what his confidence level is in him heading into the season. “I’m confident in him like I am with all of our other players. I trust our players to go out and play, and win. I think Sam has come a long way, just because it was his first time being here. I think the thing he needs to do is just play. He’s got to weather the highs and lows of the game – the highs and lows of the season. You’re going to have good games. You’re going to have bad games. The great quarterbacks just overcome things that happen. Sam is a young player. It’s his first time with us in our system. I just want him to trust his teammates, trust himself and just go and play.”
Sunday will not determine if Sam Darnold was a talented quarterback in a bad system. Sunday will not determine if he was worth the 3rd pick in the draft. Sunday is just week 1 of 17.
Going up against his former team doesn’t make it a prove-it game for Sam, but it most certainly is a prove-it season.