If Darnold wants to redeem himself for those 5 picks, game vs. Vikings would be ideal

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Now that Sam Darnold’s first season with the Carolina Panthers has hit its first speed bumps, it’s natural to wonder: What’s next?

Darnold faces another challenge Sunday in a home game against Minnesota, one he will play without star running back Christian McCaffrey (hamstring) for the third straight week.

In the past six quarters, Darnold has been picked off five times — twice in the second half against Dallas, followed by three times last week against Philadelphia.

McCaffrey hasn’t been around for any of that, of course, due to his hamstring injury. And he won’t be playing Sunday, either, when the star tailback will miss his 16th game out of the past 22 since he became the NFL’s highest-paid running back in April 2020. Since the Panthers also put him on IR Saturday, he will miss at least the next two games as well and be eligible to come back Nov. 7 vs. New England at the earliest.

Darnold is already working with a patched-up offensive line that was already the team’s biggest weakness even before players started going down. He has been sacked a staggering eight times over the past two games.

And, of course, everyone has suggestions for the quarterback when it’s going wrong. Four I would advocate: Stretch the field more on deep throws. Stop locking in so much on DJ Moore. Find Robby Anderson on a couple of slants. Make quicker decisions.

It’s easy to type that, but not so easy to do when you have players like Minnesota defensive ends Everson Griffin and Danielle Hunter chasing you. Trading tight end Dan Arnold to Jacksonville took away one of the targets Darnold was most comfortable with, and Darnold and rookie Terrace Marshall Jr. haven’t clicked yet with any regularity. No wonder he loves Moore so much.

The best remedy for all this will be if Darnold can find Anderson on a deep ball Sunday. That will stretch Minnesota’s defense, provide more rushing lanes for Chuba Hubbard and make Anderson happy, too.

Carolina Panther wide receiver Robby Anderson was frustrated in the loss to Philadelphia that the Panthers weren’t running more deep routes.
Carolina Panther wide receiver Robby Anderson was frustrated in the loss to Philadelphia that the Panthers weren’t running more deep routes.

Will it happen? Who knows, but I’d be shocked if the Panthers (3-2) don’t throw it deep a couple of times. What can’t happen Sunday, though, is multiple interceptions. In a game as evenly matched as this one will be, turnovers will loom even larger than usual.

Panthers-Vikings notes

It appears the Vikings’ powerful offense will be healthy. Wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen and running back Dalvin Cook were all on Minnesota’s injury report at some point or another this past week, but none of them received an injury designation Friday. That means they should all play.

Strange but true: Carolina has started the season 3-2 in each of the past four seasons. The Panthers have faltered after those relatively quick starts in the previous three years, going 7-9, 5-11 and 5-11.

It’s about time for Brian Burns to get another sack. Defenses have tilted toward Burns (3.0 sacks) in recent weeks, but fellow edge rusher Haason Reddick is now among NFL leaders with 6.5 sacks. I bet Burns gets one Sunday.

Prediction time

I’m 3-2 picking Carolina games after unsuccessfully choosing them to beat Philadelphia last week. I think the Vikings (2-3) are a slightly better team with the Eagles — certainly they have more talent on offense.

Prepare for another heartache, Carolina fans. And if I’m wrong, feel free to exult in telling me that you told me so. My pick: Minnesota 24, Panthers 22.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting