Panthers' Sam Darnold 'Confident' He Can Be 'One of the Best QBs' in the NFL

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVMay 24, 2022

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 9: Carolina Panthers Quarterback Sam Darnold (14) looks for an open receiver during the regular season game between the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on January 9, 2022 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Despite his struggles in 2021 with the Carolina Panthers, Sam Darnold still believes in his potential in the NFL.

"I'm confident I can be one of the best quarterbacks in the league," Darnold told reporters Tuesday.

The quarterback specifically noted his footwork needs to improve after last season, per David Newton of ESPN.

Darnold was traded to the Panthers in April 2021 after spending his first three years with the New York Jets, but his production didn't improve. He finished with just nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 12 appearances (11 starts). He had a 71.9 quarterback rating, while his 33.2 QBR ranked 29th of 31 qualified players. 

There were high expectations after a hot 3-1 start that featured five passing and five rushing touchdowns, but Darnold contributed just four touchdowns in his final eight appearances. The Panthers won just one of those games on the way to a 5-12 finish.

Despite some flashes of solid play during his four-year career, the 2018 No. 3 overall draft pick has mostly struggled with the Panthers and Jets while producing just a 76.9 passer rating.

The 24-year-old will still have more chances to prove himself after the Panthers picked up his fifth-year option on his rookie deal prior to the 2021 campaign. Darnold will receive a guaranteed $18.9 million salary for 2022, which should be enough to keep him on the roster.

The Panthers selected Matt Corral in the third round of April's draft, but he might not be ready to play in Week 1. Head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said Darnold would be the starter heading into training camp, per Jonathan M. Alexander of the Charlotte Observer.

"Sam does have some magic in his game," McAdoo said last month.

Darnold will hope to finally reach expectations in 2022, although it's clear he is not lacking confidence heading into his fifth NFL season.