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#pounditSaturday, May 15, 2021

Sam Darnold gets big vote of confidence from Matt Rhule

Sam Darnold

The Carolina Panthers are making it clear that they’re putting all their chips in with Sam Darnold for 2021.

The Panthers traded for Darnold last month, signaling their intent to make him their starting quarterback. There was some thinking that the team might be tempted to select a top quarterback in the NFL Draft if one fell to them at No. 8. Instead, the Panthers selected defensive back Jaycee Horn, despite both Justin Fields and Mac Jones remaining on the board.

In an appearance on “The Rich Eisen Show,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule made clear that the Panthers did what they did because of their full faith in Darnold.

“I love those guys and I think they’re gonna be great NFL players. I just think for us, when we got Sam and knowing he’s 23-years-old, just turned 24, we just felt like Sam plus another player would be better for the team overall,” Rhule said, via Grant Gordon of NFL.com. “We’re just trying to build the whole team and I just believe in Sam, I believe that he deserves the opportunity to go out and play with us.

“I think those other young quarterbacks are gonna be fantastic players, but the hit rate on first-round quarterbacks isn’t real, real high, and to have a chance to get Jaycee Horn and have Sam Darnold, we just kind of felt like, ‘Hey this is two for one.’ Now, we just have to make sure Sam’s a great player for us.”

Rhule makes good points, and it’s easy to take this as a suggestion that the Panthers simply weren’t sold on Fields or Jones. Darnold may be more of a sure thing in their minds.

Some people read a lot into the Panthers holding off on picking up Darnold’s fifth-year option, but it turned out to be meaningless. The team ended up doing so after the draft, and it’s pretty clear they’re going to be putting a lot of faith in the former New York Jet in 2021.

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