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Former Jets QB Chad Pennington Believes Best Is Yet to Come For Sam Darnold

Former New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington praised Carolina Panthers QB Sam Darnold, saying he will continue to blossom with his new team this season

Through the first two weeks of the season, Sam Darnold has shown that a change in scenery can sometimes be the best medicine. 

The ex-Jets quarterback has led his Carolina Panthers to two victories, one over his former team and another over the Saints. 

In those two games, Darnold has thrown for 584 yards with three touchdowns, one interception and a 68.5 completion percentage. 

Beyond the solid numbers, however, Darnold has looked more comfortable in his new threads. He has more weapons around him, his offensive line is keeping him safe and he appears to be the best version of himself since starting out in the NFL.

But don't take my word for it. Take it from a former signal-caller that has plenty of experience managing the challenges and expectations of playing quarterback in New York before eventually shining with another team later in his career.

"It was a different Sam Donald than what we've seen in the first three years," Chad Pennington told Jets Country in a recent interview. "We saw bits and pieces of that. Against the Jets [in Week 1], you saw a quarterback that seemed more in control, seemed very decisive, making plays."

Similar to Pennington's message within his early evaluation of Darnold's replacement, rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, patience is a virtue. It's no coincidence, to Pennington, that Darnold is finding himself now as he enters his fourth season in the NFL.

In fact, that logic applies to all the young quarterbacks in the AFC East, a unit that's full of rising stars even after Darnold's departure. 

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"I still think it's still a three-year process. I used to talk about how is a five-year process, I can compromise that a little bit and say that it's still going to take a full solid three years to watch a young professional quarterback mature," Pennington explained. "Our young quarterbacks are coming in more prepared and a little bit more seasoned than quarterbacks in the past based upon the resources that they have available to them. But at the same time, I think organizations have to take it upon themselves to really construct the right organization and structure around that quarterback so that he can be successful."

Asked if he believes Darnold can blossom in Carolina, becoming a top-tier quarterback, Pennington didn't hesitate.

"I do think he has that capability. I think we need to remind ourselves that he was the No. 3 pick in the draft and it wasn't only the Jets that wanted him," he said. "It doesn't happen overnight. And sometimes a change of scenery can be that spark for that young professional quarterback to take that next step as well. So I'm hoping that that's what it is for Sam. 

"That bodes well for Carolina too, because I think he's a talented quarterback, he's a guy who can really lead a team and do some great things, physically and mentally."

Speaking of comebacks, Pennington is working as a spokesperson for college football’s Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award. The two-time Comeback Player of the Year Award winner is part of an initiative that recognizes college football student athletes that have overcome adversity while donating scholarships in their names.

"I understand what those comebacks are all about being a two-time Comeback Player of the Year myself, really understanding the energy and support system and mindset that you have to have to make a major comeback," Pennington said. "It's just a lot of fun to be a part of this and watch these young student athletes persevere."

Each week, three players from all levels of college football will be nominated, whether their comeback is from injury, illness or another challenge. This week's nominees for the award are Tulsa linebacker Yohance Burnett, Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson and Florida Atlantic tight end John Mitchell, a senior tight end at Florida Atlantic University.

To learn more about Mayo Clinic's initiative, visit Comeback-Player.com.

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