Christian McCaffrey is a fan of new Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold.
As Carolina’s new backfield battery began to work together at the team’s first set of OTAs, McCaffrey praised the talent of his new teammate.
“I’ve gotten to know him really well in the last few months,” McCaffrey said of Darnold, per the Panthers website. “Just getting together throwing with him and hanging out off the field. He’s an incredible talent and incredible teammate already, so I’m super excited for him. …
“I think he’ll fit in great. Already fits in great.”
The Panthers have dealt with a quarterback carousel in recent seasons, and Darnold will likely become their seventh different player to start at quarterback since 2018. Their starters the past two years have dealt with injury woes (Cam Newton) and inconsistency (Teddy Bridgewater), so that’s part of what led the Panthers to acquire Darnold, who’s still young (23) and has upside.
And as McCaffrey explained, Darnold’s leadership style is an asset.
“He’s very laid back, but he’s definitely a leader too,” McCaffrey said. “And he knows when to put his foot down when he needs to and be a leader when he needs to. I think that’s something that makes all quarterbacks great.
“Just demanding attention to detail, demanding a sharp practice, demanding a sense of urgency, that all starts with every individual, but the quarterback touches the ball every play. So if he shows it, then everybody else will rally behind it.”
Perhaps Darnold is fitting in so well in Carolina because he endured a tough three-season start to his NFL career with the Jets. In New York, Darnold posted a 13-25 record in 38 starts with 8,097 passing yards, 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions. He struggled with turnovers as the Jets struggled to surround him with the playmakers and blockers he needed to succeed.
Darnold may have just needed a change of scenery. He should have better weapons surrounding him in Carolina than he did in New York. At the very least with the Panthers, he has more coaching stability under Matt Rhule, who has a much longer leash than the one Adam Gase had in New York.
So, if Darnold is stepping up in practice and showcasing the talent that McCaffrey is seeing, that’s a good sign for his future.
It’s still early in the offseason, but maybe Darnold and the Panthers will turn out to be a perfect match.
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