Sam Darnold focused on continued strides with 49ers amid QB competition

Darnold focused on continued strides with 49ers amid QB battle originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SANTA CLARA — Sam Darnold, who has five seasons of NFL experience, comes to the 49ers with a fresh start and no promises.

The quarterback fell far short of the expectations that come with being the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft during his three seasons with the New York Jets. Still, his untapped physical talent remains undeniable.

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Darnold signed with the 49ers in the offseason after playing his best football in 2022 during a six-start stint with the Carolina Panthers. He turns 26 on June 5.

“I feel like last year, [I took] a step in the right direction in terms of protecting the football a little bit better,” Darnold said Tuesday following the second practice of 49ers organized team activities.

“I just want to continue to make strides in that direction, staying patient in pocket, all those things. I feel like every year you continue to strive to get better. And for me, it's just doing all the little things. But first and foremost, it's learning the offense, learning the scheme, and continuing to study that way.”

The Panthers went 4-2 in Darnold’s six starts and got into contention for the NFC South title. He completed 58.6 percent of his pass attempts (82 of 140) for 1,143 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions.


Darnold signed a one-year, $5.7 million contract with the 49ers as a free agent in March. He can earn an additional $7 million if he reaches all incentives tied to playing time, wins and passer rating.

Darnold joined a quarterback room that already consisted of Brock Purdy and Trey Lance. He signed at a time when the 49ers seemed uncertain about Purdy’s availability after elbow surgery.

On Tuesday, coach Kyle Shanahan said the organization is optimistic Purdy will be available for the regular-season opener on Sept. 10 at the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The 49ers have declared the starting job is Purdy’s — as long as he is healthy. So that leaves Darnold, Lance and Brandon Allen to compete for the other spots on the team’s depth chart.


“I think competition is great for everyone,” Darnold said. “Obviously, we’ve got some competition in the quarterback room, but other places as well. It's always great to be able to go out there and compete, and we're going to do that.”

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Darnold appears less concerned with the big picture during the offseason program as he strives to learn the system and make incremental improvements.

“I think it's really making sure that I'm on it in terms of all the shifts, motions, checks, all those things and my reads and making sure that everything's clear in my head to go out there and play confidently and play fast,” he said.

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