Despite working against Pittsburgh’s second- and third-stringers in the first half before trading off with backup QB P.J. Walker, Darnold looked like a focused quarterback.
Darnold completed 19-of-25 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns and walked off the field with a 17-0 lead over the Steelers.
Wide receiver Robby Anderson, who caught one of the touchdowns, said Darnold looked comfortable and efficient.
“It was good to get out there and get that game feel. I think all the starters can attest to how there was some good, there was some bad — we just got to watch the tape and learn from it,” Darnold said.
“For me, it’s really just learning from last year and understanding when to get the ball out in a timely manner,” Darnold said comparing this year to last. “I think that’s the biggest thing is finding completions when the defense does a good job of covering guys. So I’ve just got to keep learning from that and getting better in that area.”
Panthers coach Matt Rhule has said since the beginning of training camp that Darnold doesn’t have to focus on being a leader, only on “playing quarterback.’’
After the preseason game, Rhule said they deliberately called certain plays to see Darnold in particular situations and that he’s appreciated how the quarterback has approached his new assignment with the team.
“He’s not maybe gonna get the guys up and give the guys a speech, you know, the rah-rah speech guy,” Rhule said. “But he is starting to demand accountability from guys, and guys play for him because he doesn’t make excuses. I believe in true, true, true leadership. I don’t believe in convenient leadership. There’s a lot of convenient leaders out there that say the right things in the big moments, but they don’t live that way and do that.”
Rhule continued: “I think if you live a life of doing the right things, then people hear what you want to say. And I think Sam is emerging and developing in that way. But the most important thing is to be the first guy to come in and last guy to leave.”
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