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  1. Waiting for camp to start always seems like a long process, but admittedly it was a little shorter for me this summer, as I kept myself busy. Now that I've turned more of my attention back towards the Panthers, the biggest question remains, and that would be Sam Darnold. It's easy to feel good about Darnold when buying into the narrative that he sucked because the Jets sucked and now Rhule and company have freed Darnold from a sentence of 3 years to bust. Everything's gonna be alright, and he's going to lead us to the glory of the Lombardi trophy risen above every head in Panthers' nation. But, then again, there are short articles like this one by our friend, Tim Weaver, who rightfully summon the spirits of skepticism to dance with all those feel-good fairies at the forefront of our minds about the coming 2021 season. "According to Pro Football Focus, Darnold has the lowest passing grade (55.7) from a clean pocket since the 2018 season. Bridgewater ranked No. 32 in that stat last year, while Darnold ranked dead last at No. 39. "Perhaps the most critical area that needs improvement for Carolina’s offense is in the red zone. In 2020, they consistently had trouble getting over the goal line and finished the year No. 28 in red zone scoring percentage. This is another area Darnold has struggled in, though. PFF says Darnold’s passer rating in the red zone (77.6) is also the lowest in the league going back to 2018." These are things we may may or may not have heard before, but they are a reminders to be honest with ourselves that all we have right now is hope. Our season will largely go how Darnold goes. It's kind of "funny" but, we're hoping based upon his orbit around a black hole of suck--the Jets organization for years--that Rhule, Brady and company have enough pull to lead Darnold from a certain path of destruction to a place where he can shine and lead our team to the place where upper echelon teams exist on an annual basis. Yes, a few may ponder whether Darnold wasn't at the center of the suck himself, but I will tell you that I don't believe that he'll be allowed to suck the Panthers franchise down a black hole, because there are already too many forces that will not just sit by and let it happen. Make no mistake, the 2021 season will be the last potential sacrifice that Rhule, and, more importantly, David Tepper will allow. MY advice: keep hope alive, but also keep your expectations down to earth. Don't set your heart on Darnold being the savior, but don't dismiss his potential and the ability for our staff to accentuate his strengths and hopefully minimize his faults. Wait and see, but keep your mind open. At the end of the day, when the balance sheet is reconciled, there's really not enough invested in him--at this point--to raise our hands and thank our lucky stars, or to weep and gnash our teeth. We'll have a better idea of what he is in three months, and we'll have even better answers as to what we really have in a front office some time after that.
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