Sam Darnold defenders may not be holding their breaths much longer. Or so they hope based on comments made by Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule, lauding the former third-overall-pick for his performance in OTAs.
“I thought Sam was outstanding today. Probably his best practice since he’s been here,” Rhule told the media on Wednesday.
The coach also noted that Darnold showed progress in limiting his turnovers and erring passing.
Matt Rhule’s job heading into 2022-23 was bent on whether he could fix the Panthers’ sputtering offense. Turning to a hybrid Cam Newton-Darnold quarterbacking system didn’t prove effective for the bottom-of-the-barrel offense and Rhule appeared, largely, without a plan to fix it all.
With Newton gone, it’s now all up to Darnold.
The head coach found himself in hot-seat talks to start the offseason, but word around the Panthers was that Rhule would keep his job on condition of hiring the right offensive coordinator.
Last year’s OC, Joe Brady, was nixed with five games left in the regular season.
This year, Rhule will turn to former New York Giants head coach / OC and Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo to help turn the offense around.
McAdoo, as offensive coordinator for the Giants, sparked a bounce-back effort from New York’s offense after it was running on neutral with predecessor Kevin Gilbride. Big Blue’s offense improved from the 28th-highest-scoring offense to 13th in McAdoo’s first year as OC.
Last season, Darnold threw for 2,527 passing yards, nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions — giving Rhule and McAdoo a major assignment ahead.
The Panthers’ drafting of Ole Miss QB Matt Corral should also add to Darnold’s urgency to show improvement.
With the help of 2022 first-rounder Ickey Ekwonu to bolster the offensive line and a healthier Christian McCaffrey returning to action, the Panthers’ coaching staff will undoubtedly be keen on Darnold’s willingness to make or break the offense.
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