Sometimes, all a player needs is a change of scenery.
Former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold is no exception. The No. 3-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft was traded to the Carolina Panthers this offseason, much to the delight of his new teammates.
“I think I’ve seen him grow in a lot of ways,” star running back Christian McCaffrey said earlier this week. “He’s a guy that approaches each day the exact same and continues to strive to get better. As a leader, he’ll text guys late at night, asking about plays, giving us what he sees on certain plays. And you can just tell he’s dialed in.”
The Panthers bet big on Darnold. They traded three assets — a 2021 sixth-round pick, a 2022 second-round pick and a 2022 fourth-round pick — for the struggling project in April.
Darnold went 13-25 with the Jets, tossing 39 interceptions and only 45 touchdowns. Out of 36 qualifying players, he was the NFL’s lowest-rated passer in 2020 (72.7). His career passer rating is 78.6, the worst in the NFL since 2018. His Jets tenure was plagued by injuries and a lack of offensive weapons.
But McCaffrey sees Darnold’s potential.
“So every day, every throw, as a leader, as a player, just kind of developing in the offense and learning the playbook and getting everything down, he’s just been very consistent,” McCaffrey said. “So I think when you stack a bunch of consistent days on top of each other, that will ultimately create a lot of growth. And that’s what he’s done.”
He’s not the only one to notice a difference. Former Jets receiver Robby Anderson was reunited with his QB and can already feel the difference.
“I saw like a new energy out of him, a glowing charisma that I didn’t really see in New York,” said Anderson said this week. “… You know when a person, you can see a glow in them, their energy, an aura — I can see that when I walked into the building and just being around him.”