Sam Darnold‘s promising start in Carolina has morphed into another tough season for the former top-three pick. And Darnold’s season will now involve an IR stint.
The shoulder injury Darnold is battling will sideline him for at least three games. Darnold suffered a partially fractured right scapula, Joe Person of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Although this IR stint only requires a three-game absence, Matt Rhule said Wednesday a four- to six-week hiatus should be expected.
While this injury is new, Darnold missing time is not. The 2018 draftee missed at least three games in his first three seasons. This shoulder setback will extend that streak to four. It comes after a brutal stretch for the ex-Jet, who now has an NFL-high 11 interceptions. The Panthers have lost five of their past six games, with Darnold having been benched in Week 7 and left in Week 8 due to injury. Attempting to play through pain in Week 9, Darnold threw three more INTs in a one-sided loss to the Patriots. While Darnold left the Falcons game due to injury, Rhule said he suffered this shoulder malady in the second quarter against the Pats.
The Panthers have P.J. Walker in place as Darnold’s backup and signed Matt Barkley this week. Walker is in line to start. While Walker excelled in the XFL’s abbreviated 2020 season, he could not stick with an NFL team prior to that XFL showing. He has one NFL start to his credit — a win over the Lions last season. Walker was 3 of 14 after replacing Darnold against the Giants earlier this season.
Carolina traded second-, fourth- and sixth-round picks for Darnold and picked up his fully guaranteed 2022 option, which is worth more than $18MM. But the team will likely again shop for a new quarterback next year.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.