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Matt Rhule: Sam Darnold entering 2022 with 'a little more edge'

5/25/2022 4:36:44 PM
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Sam Darnold's debut season as a Panther didn't go as anyone in Charlotte had hoped, and nothing is guaranteed going into year two.

In fact, an opportunity to compete for his job wasn't even entirely guaranteed until recently. Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer told Darnold in his exit meeting that the team would be perusing the quarterback market in the offseason, forcing Darnold to tune out the noise, which became deafening during Carolina's pursuit of Deshaun Watson and again grew loud when Fitterer traded up to select Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral in the 2022 draft. 

Head coach Matt Rhule knows that the offseason has been tough on Darnold, Nick Shook of reports.

"I think what Sam's been through this offseason is hard," Rhule said, via the Panthers' official site. "Your back's against the wall, everyone's kind of questioning can you do this or not. You can have confidence in yourself and still say, 'Hey, I need to work on these things.' A lot of people get that confused. I think Sam has to have confidence in himself, his ability to work through and grind and develop, and at the same time, identify things he has to improve on. I think we've seen a guy that's showed up, that's got a little more edge to him, a little more, hey, I'm going to show people what I can do.

"I think Sam's very, very focused. What that means, we'll see every day on the field. You can see that he's worked."

Darnold has proven how difficult the position can be to both play, and occasionally, watch. After a hot start to the 2021 season for Carolina, Darnold devolved into a skittish mess before an injury opened the door for Cam Newton to make a (brief) hero's return, and once Darnold made it back to the field, he offered little inspiration, finishing with the worst passer rating of his four-year career.

Now he's learning another new system under another new offensive coordinator in Ben McAdoo. And frankly, if Darnold reached the point at which he no longer cared about what the football world thought of him and instead just went out slinging, it might end up producing the best version of him in the NFL.

Darnold with a "little more edge" might be just what the doctor ordered. After all, he doesn't have much else to lose.

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