Panthers want to take advantage of Sam Darnold’s stronger arm compared to Teddy Bridgewater

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It’s been several years since the Panthers had an effective long passing game. First, there were Cam Newton’s shoulder issues, which turned him into a ghost of his former MVP-level of play when he effortlessly dropped 50-yard bombs regularly. Then, there was the unfortunate Kyle Allen experiment – the less said about that the better. Last year, Teddy Bridgewater had his moments but was never able to get a consistent deep ball going.

Heading into the 2021 season, Carolina is hoping that their new starting quarterback Sam Darnold can turn that around. Here’s what Darin Gantt had to say about Darnold’s arm compared to the last guy, via the team website.

“But Darnold’s a different player than Bridgewater, so they want to use him differently. Specifically, they want to take advantage of his stronger arm to move the ball downfield.”

Darnold does have a bit more firepower in his right arm compared to Teddy, but that’s a pretty low bar to hurdle.

During the 2020 season, Bridgewater was one of the NFL’s least effective quarterbacks when it came to throwing the ball downfield 20 yards or more. According to the excellent Deep Ball project, Bridgewater ranked No. 25 in the league in this category. He completed just 20 of 40 total attempts for 755 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.

On film, Darnold has a much prettier-looking moon ball in his arsenal. However, the numbers are not kind. Darnold actually ranked even lower than Teddy last year, coming in at No. 29 on the list. He went just 9/31 on throws of 20+ yards, totaling 250 yards, two touchdowns and one pick.

Of course all of this needs to come with an important asterisk, representing the awful supporting cast Darnold had to work with on the Jets. His best receivers were Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and Braxton Berrios – not exactly a stacked receiver group.

The Panthers are loaded at this position, though. Being reunited with Robby Anderson in Carolina should help Darnold improve his long ball production. He’ll also benefit from having D.J. Moore, who led the league in contested catches of 20 yards or more and averaged 18.1 yards per catch last season.

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