Sam Darnold (shoulder) to undergo MRI as Panthers consider options at QB

Sam Darnold’s recent stretch of struggles has him in the focus of Carolina’s training staff for a second straight week.

Darnold will undergo an MRI on a shoulder injury suffered prior to Carolina’s Week 9 loss to New England, Panthers coach Matt Rhule told reporters Monday. Darnold threw three interceptions in the 24-6 defeat, including two that came as a result of poor pass placement.

Rhule told reporters he does not believe the injury caused Darnold to throw the interceptions.

“When I look at the tape I see two bad decisions on turnovers,” Rhule said, via ESPN’s David Newton.

The third Darnold interception came via an excellent play made by Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins, who leapt up in front of Darnold to snag the pass from a short distance.

Darnold has been mired in poor play for much of the last month, throwing four interceptions in Carolina’s last three games. He suffered a concussion in the Panthers’ win over Atlanta in Week 8, but made it out of concussion protocol in time to overcome the shoulder injury and resulting questionable game status to play Sunday. Darnold has not missed a start in 2021.

Carolina acquired Darnold in the offseason with the belief the Panthers could reverse the course of the quarterback’s once-promising career. He performed up to expectation in the team’s first month of the season, but has since regressed dramatically, and the Panthers’ offense has suffered.

When asked Monday if Rhule believed Darnold was still the right quarterback for the Panthers, the coach danced around the question with his response.

“Right now we’re focused on him and his health,” Rhule said.

Carolina began the 2021 season on a hot streak, winning its first three games. The Panthers have won just one contest since, owning a 4-5 record entering Week 10, while Darnold has posted a passer rating of just 71.3 and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 7-11 in his nine starts this season.

The Panthers have former XFL standout P.J. Walker available as Darnold’s backup. Walker replaced a struggling Darnold in Carolina’s blowout loss to New York in Week 7 and filled in for Darnold again in Week 8 following the starter’s exit due to a concussion.

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