Sam Darnold's transition to Panthers 'seamless' despite half a couch

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Sam Darnold’s transition from the New York Jets to the Carolina Panthers could be likened to the quarterback getting settled into his new apartment.

“I don’t have a bed frame,’’ Darnold said on Tuesday after his second day of on-the-field offseason workouts. “My bed is still on the ground. And I have half a couch right now.

“We’re working on it. Hopefully, those things get here in the next couple of weeks."

Darnold, 23, doesn’t have all he needs to efficiently run Carolina’s offense yet, either. But coach Matt Rhule has seen improvement in the third pick of the 2018 draft and expects him to get better in the next couple of months.

“The biggest thing with Sam is to get very comfortable with the way we move in the pocket,’’ Rhule said. “He comes from a different system where they were very static. We’re more up in the pocket, slide in the pocket, throw with rhythm type of a team. We really don’t want him holding the ball and letting it rip.

“We want him to play in progression, play in timing. That’s new to him. But you can see a marked difference from the first day of Phase 2 to now, [the second day of Phase 3].’’

While Darnold’s apartment will be fully furnished soon, his defining moment on the field won’t come until the Sept. 12 opener against the Jets team that gave up on him after three seasons.

And to nobody’s surprise, Darnold didn’t provide bulletin board fodder looking ahead to that game in his first interview since the schedule was released.

“For me as a competitor, I’m going to compete no matter who the opponent is,’’ he said matter-of-factly. “That’s kind of my mindset on it.’’

Darnold’s mindset is key to his success. He went 13-25 with the Jets, completing only 59.9% of his passes and throwing almost as many interceptions (39) as he did touchdowns (45).

His performance was so underwhelming New York traded him to Carolina for a sixth-round pick this year, a second- and fourth-round pick in 2022, and then drafted BYU’s Zach Wilson with the second overall pick.

Carolina believes Darnold, the former USC star that was picked No.3 overall, is somebody who can win now.

That Darnold will be surrounded by more talent than he ever had in New York, from running back Christian McCaffrey to wide receivers DJ Moore and Robby Anderson, gives him a chance to succeed in offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s pass-happy scheme.

McCaffrey, who faced Darnold in college, remembered his Stanford defenders “always talking about how good he was.’’ He likes what he’s seen thus far in OTAs.

“He’s very sharp, and that’s something that is really exciting early,’’ said McCaffrey, who is 100% healthy after missing 13 games with injuries last season.

“I love how everyone is responding to his urgency, him taking control of that huddle and receivers getting to the ball and just having a crisp, sense of urgency catching the ball and getting up field.’’

While playing in a smaller market like Charlotte versus media-intense New York would seem less pressure-packed, Darnold doesn’t see it that way.

“I’ve always had high expectations for myself,’’ he said. “Expectations outside of that, to be honest, besides my teammates and my coaches, it doesn’t mean a lot. For me, it’s about what we expect as a team, how much we expect as a team.

“For me, it’s about completing the ball and getting the team down the field and scoring touchdowns. As long as we do that and I do my job, I’m good.’’

What Rhule likes most about what he’s seen from Darnold is a willingness to start from scratch and listen to instruction on everything from cadence to his footwork. That allows the staff to rebuild the quarterback from the ground up.

“He’s just so young in what we’re asking him to do, but he’s got a great work ethic,’’ Rhule said. “He wants to be good.’’

Darnold believes in time he will be completely comfortable in Brady’s offense that helped LSU win the national championship in 2019 and made Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow the Heisman Trophy winner.

He already feels comfortable in Charlotte thanks to teammates and coaches who have helped him decide where to live and eat, where to go “and where not to go.’’

Darnold's parents visited two weeks ago “to check out the area’’ and go with him to the Wells Fargo Championship. He had friends in town last weekend.

He knows in time the rest of his sectional sofa will arrive.

“I call this place home,’’ Darnold said. “It’s been amazing. I’ve still got some furniture on the way. . . . But I’ve gotten all that stuff taken care of. I’m really focused on football. It really has been a seamless transition.’’