Sam Darnold starting to find himself in Carolina Panthers' offense

CHARLOTTE (N.C.) Since the start of training camp, Matt Rhule, Carolina Panthers coach, has insistent that quarterback Sam Darnold does not have to be a leader but must focus only on his role as a quarterback.
Rhule says Darnold should be focused on getting the ball in the hands of his players and not trying to do too many things, as he did with the New York Jets over the past three seasons.

Mission accomplished Friday night's preseason finale with a win of 34-9 over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Darnold was able to work against Pittsburgh's second-stringers and third-stringers during the first half, before being replaced by backup P.J. Walker. Darnold was a focused quarterback in his brief preseason playing time -- one series in the second game.

He was not dynamic.

He was not great.

He was efficient.

Robby Anderson, wide receiver for the Jets, stated that Darnold seems more mature. He played two seasons with Darnold (2018-19). He seems more at ease out there, said Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold. He completed 19 of 25 pass attempts for 162 yard and two touchdowns. Chris Keane/Getty Images

Darnold completed 19 out of 25 passes for 162 yards and 2 touchdowns. The final drive of half saw Darnold at his best, completing 7 out 8 passes for 58 yards and Anderson a touchdown of 8 yards.

Rhule stated, "Hell of a ball to Robby."

That's a half that Darnold only had three halves of in 2018, 20 and 38 games for the Jets. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Darnold passed for 150 yards and two touchdowns in those three seasons. ESPN offers fantasy football for free. ESPN has more people than any other site. Create or join a league in the No. 1. Fantasy Football game Register now for a free account

To give you an idea of his scoring drive, he led an 84-yard, 12-play scoring drive at halftime in his three seasons with Jets. He has only led a scoring drive that long twice.

He will not be a candidate to win the NFL MVP.

It was however a positive step towards rebuilding the third draft pick in 2018. He had 39 interceptions and only 45 touchdowns in New York.

He was not a game disrupter, but a game manager on Friday.

Darnold said that he was still learning from last season and knowing when to pass the ball. Darnold didn't have Christian McCaffrey as his running back last night. Finding completions is the most important thing.

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Darnold's Friday completion percentage of 76% was far higher than his career 59.8%% with the Jets. He accomplished this by submerging the ball under and dunk it to wide-open receivers.

NFL Next Gen Stats shows that only one of his 25 attempts was caught in a narrow window.

Darnold completed 12 of 15 attempts for the 107 yard mark, and most of his damage was between zero to nine yards. He did not have a pass travel greater than 20 yards. Terrace Marshall Jr., a rookie wide receiver, caught his 13 yard touchdown at the line of scrimmage.

According to Next Gen Stats, Friday's average Darnolds pass distance was 4.6 yards. Alex Smith was last in the NFL last year with a distance of 5.0 miles.

Darnold ranked 21st among 35 qualified quarterbacks last season with an average of 7.5 yards downfield.

Darnold did not have either an interception nor a fumble. However, he was close to getting one.

Rhule said Darnold performed like everyone -- some good and some bad." Overall, a good effort."

Darnold was protected by the Carolinas' rebuilt offensive line for most of the second half. That was not against the Pittsburgh starters who had an NFL-best 56 sacks last year, 15 of which were by T.J. Watt, outside linebacker.

Rhule said that the line is still a work-in-progress.

Darnold was good enough to get most attention. The Panthers brought in DominikEberle, then traded for Ryan Santoso with the New York Giants to bring in Joey Slye.

Slye missed his 49-yard field goal attempt and kicked an extra point. Santoso converted a 52 yard field goal that ricocheted off the right upright and was 3-for-3 with extra points.

It appears that Santoso is the one who will do this job.

Darnold was named the starting quarterback the moment he was traded from Carolina. He's beginning to look like one.

His leadership skills are beginning to show.

Rhule stated that he is not going to be the rah rah speech guy. He is a man who demands accountability from men. He doesn't make excuses and guys play for him.

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