Sam Darnold got the rare opportunity to one-up his ex.
The former No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft was replaced in New York by the latest hot-shot signal-caller, Zach Wilson. The Jets moved on, trading Darnold to Carolina this offseason.
On Sunday, Darnold got the better of his former club, leading the Panthers to a 19-14 win. The fourth-year QB didn’t take the opportunity to rag on his old club.
“You know, I’m not going to lie, seeing them on the other side, that was a little different for me,” he said, per the team’s official transcript. “But other than that, once you throw that away, you kind of look at the scheme and our offense versus their defense, you kind of forget about it, in the middle of the game and while you’re playing. We just, we tried to execute to the best of our ability and that was it.”
Darnold was asked if beating the team that gave up on him provided any vindication.
“No, not for me,” he replied.
Darnold was 24-of-35 passing for 279 yards, one passing TD and a 102.0 passer rating in his Panthers debut. He joined Jeff Garcia (defeated Browns with Lions in Week 7, 2005) as the only QBs since 1950 to defeat their former team in their first start after leaving that team.
Leaning on Christian McCaffrey — 21 rushes for 98 yards and nine catches on nine targets for 89 yards — Darnold played within himself. He missed a bevy of intermediate throws but connected with a deep bomb to another former Jet, Robby Anderson, for a 57-yard TD.
Even on that #RevengeTD, Darnold was mum.
“We really didn’t think about it like that,” he said of his hookup with Anderson. “It was just a connection, a good connection, for a touchdown, that was honestly it.”
Coach Matt Rhule likes what he saw from Darnold in the season opener.
“It’s a good first step. It’s a good first game,” Rhule said. “I think for him this was probably a real step forward. He was in the moment the whole game. I didn’t have a lot of concerns. I was just anxious to see how he would be playing the Jets and that moment. He looked like he had fun the whole day. There was not a moment where I was like, ‘hey, calm down, hang in there.’ He was great.
“Coming into the game, I think I talked to Scott and I felt like he was the least of my concerns. I wasn’t worried about Sam. He was locked in this whole week. I think he has played that well. I think people will just have to wait and see how he plays as we move forward. My job is to help him play well. Not to see if he plays well right, so we will come back on Monday and Tuesday and continue to work with him. As I said before, he is the kind of guy you want to succeed. When you have those types of guys in the building things are good.”
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