Skip to main content

Sam Darnold could replace Cam Newton as Carolina Panthers starting QB before end of 2021 season

Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule traded three draft picks, including a 2022 second-round selection, for quarterback Sam Darnold this offseason. Despite the young quarterback’s woeful play before getting injured, he could get another shot to start.

Rhule announced this week that both Darnold and Cam Newton will see significant snaps against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 16. It is Rhule’s latest plan in a quarterback carousel that has seen Carolina become the rare NFL team to rotate quarterbacks on plays and drives.

While Newton is expected to start on Sunday, he might not have the job for long with Rhule considering another change.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Darnold’s playing time will increase in Week 16 and Rhule is hopeful that the former top pick can reclaim the starting job.

“We brought him here to be a starter. We want to see if he can play at that level again.”

Carolina Panthers HC Matt Rhule on plans for QB Sam Darnold

The renewed confidence in Darnold, who just came off injured reserve, is reportedly the result of Darnold delivering a good week of practice with sharp throws and a command of the offense in the huddle.

When the Panthers jumped out to a 3-0 start, Darnold played a crucial role in the early success. He completed 68% of his passes with a 3-1 TD-INT ratio, 99.0 passer rating and three rushing touchdowns. But everything crashed down for the former USC star after that.

  • Sam Darnold stats (Week 4-9): 54.77% completion rate, 4-10 TD-INT ratio, 56.5 passer rating, 16 sacks

Carolina placed Darnold on injured reserve in November, citing a shoulder injury as the cause for his throwing woes. Now that he is seemingly fully healthy, Rhule seems confident he can return to form.

This could also be Rhule looking to save himself by pointing to another problem as the cause for the team’s struggles. He fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady, unsatisfied with the team’s play-calling, confident it would correct issues within the offense. But the Panthers haven’t won a game since Brady’s firing.

Rhule played a prominent role in the Darnold trade and had a say in the decision to fully guarantee his $18.8 million salary for the 2022 season. Something to keep in mind if Rhule makes another quarterback switch.