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Sam Darnold to Face Zach Wilson, Jets in Week 1; 1st Panthers Game Since Trade

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2021

FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, file photo New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold rolls out to pass against the New England Patriots in the first half of an NFL football game in Foxborough, Mass. The New York Jets traded Darnold Monday, April 5, 2021, to the Carolina Panthers, ending a stint that was marked by a few flashes of brilliance, inconsistent play, and unfortunate injuries. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Quarterback Sam Darnold will face a familiar foe when he makes his first regular-season start as a member of the Carolina Panthers in Week 1 of the 2021 NFL campaign.

The Panthers announced Wednesday that they will play host to Darnold's former team, the New York Jets, for a 1 p.m. clash in Week 1.

New York selected Darnold with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft out of USC, but after three unsuccessful seasons, the Jets dealt Darnold to the Panthers this offseason and selected BYU quarterback Zach Wilson with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.

There was hope that Darnold would turn around the Jets' misfortunes, but he never gained his footing in the Big Apple.

In 38 starts, Darnold went just 13-25 while completing 59.8 percent of his passes for 8,097 yards, 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions. He also rushed for 417 yards and five scores.

Darnold showed flashes of brilliance in his Jets career, but last season was the final nail in the coffin regarding his tenure in New York, as he went just 2-10 and threw just nine touchdown passes compared to 11 interceptions.

The Jets made major changes this offseason, including firing head coach Adam Gase and replacing him with Robert Saleh. Trading Darnold to the Panthers was perhaps the biggest move, though, as it set the stage to take Wilson.

In defense of Darnold, the Jets front office did little to secure him the weapons he needed. Wilson has only been with the team for a couple of weeks, and he's arguably already received more help.

New York signed wide receiver Corey Davis and running back Tevin Coleman, plus it selected guard Alijah Vera-Tucker in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft, wide receiver Elijah Moore in the second round and running back Michael Carter in the fourth.

Meanwhile, Darnold will take over a Carolina offense that possesses far more firepower than any attack he directed in New York.

He will have do-everything running back Christian McCaffrey behind him, as well as a receiving corps of DJ Moore, Robby Anderson and 2021 second-round pick Terrace Marshall Jr.

On top of that, Darnold will have offensive coordinator Joe Brady calling the plays on the heels of Brady helping quarterback Joe Burrow put up unreal numbers and win the Heisman Trophy at LSU in 2019.

Darnold has all the tools to succeed in Carolina, and he will immediately get the opportunity to prove the Jets wrong in Week 1.