Looking for a spark, the Carolina Panthers made their third quarterback change of the season ahead of their bye week. Sam Darnold, who was sidelined the first 11 weeks of the season, was named the starter, taking over for Baker Mayfield with P.J. Walker as his backup.
Darnold crashed and burned as the starter in 2021 after the Panthers acquired him from the New York Jets and guaranteed his fifth-year option. This season, however, he has improved in each game and has the Panthers back in the playoff race.
Carolina has gone 3-1 in the four games that Darnold has started. A big reason for the team’s success with him under center is that he is taking care of the ball. Darnold has yet to throw an interception this season in four games, an impressive feat given how much he struggled with turnovers last season.
It is not from playing conservatively, either. According to NFL on CBS, Darnold has averaged 8.6 yards per attempt since Week 12. That average is good enough for first place in the league over that span of time.
Darnold has not played enough to qualify for the season-long leaderboards, but the 8.6 yards per attempt would put him near the top of the league. 8.6 is what Patrick Mahomes is averaging this season, which is third in the league. Tua Tagovailoa is first with 9.2 and Jalen Hurts is second with 8.7.
Since taking over as the starter, Darnold has done a good job of pushing the ball down the field when given the opportunity and getting the ball into his playmakers’ hands so that they can make a play after the catch. He isn’t forcing the action, taking what the defense gives him and helping keep the offense on schedule.
On the season Darnold has completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 759 yards and four touchdowns. The passer rating and QBR that he has recorded thus far would both be career-highs as he could be turning a corner just when his career looked to be hanging in the balance.