We have not seen ‘the best of Sam Darnold’


Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper wasn’t the only man caping for Sam Darnold on Wednesday. He was joined by franchise great and future Hall of Famer Steve Smith Sr.

On last night’s edition of NFL Total Access, the Panthers’ all-time leading receiver said the team has to, first and foremost, address its offensive line through the draft. And if they do by finally pulling together more than just an okay front, maybe we’ll start to see the best of 2018’s third overall pick.

Smith Sr. is no stranger to going to bat for Darnold. He expressed the same sentiment back in November, when he said putting the fourth-year quarterback behind such an inept line was like putting an “underage driver in rush-hour traffic.”

“He’s under duress so much, how do you know Sam Darnold is this bad? They put him on the move and the brother’s running for his life,” Smith Sr. said. “I haven’t seen a dude running like that that much since I saw a dude snatch a dude’s purse in New York.”

Tepper’s comments during his pre-draft press conference echoed those of Smith Sr.’s. He too thinks the organization has to do a better job of supporting the 24-year-old.

“I do think we have a very good quarterback in Sam Darnold, just as an aside,” he said unprompted.

“The first three games, as I recall, we won. We had this running back that has some talent that got injured. That might’ve affected some different momentum that we had. I think his name is Christian McCaffrey.

“And then—as you saw—the fourth game, the Dallas game, Sam was still there. Then we had a center [Matt Paradis] that got injured. So there was a lot of different things on the team, then Sam himself got injured. So there’s a lot of different things that happened last year that hopefully will not repeat this year—that do give me some hope.”

Well, that “hope” better be good enough for the Panthers in 2022—because Darnold’s 2021 was nothing short of hopeless.

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