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Sam Darnold has the arm, now they're working on feet

Sean Ryan, Sam Darnold

CHARLOTTE — New Panthers quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan has coached a lot of different kinds of quarterbacks.

But his goal is to teach them the exact same way, and he's encouraged by the kind of pupil he has here.

Prior to joining the Panthers this offseason, his prior two quarterbacks were Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson, who have few traits in common. Ryan also worked with Eli Manning with the Giants, so it's hard to pigeonhole his style, which is why he thinks he can absolutely work with Sam Darnold, P.J. Walker, and Will Grier at the same time.

"The process is like any other quarterback I've ever worked with," Ryan said. "You start always from the feet up; that's what I believe in. So we're doing that with all three guys, and I've done it with everyone I've ever worked with. When your feet are right, and your lower half is right, there's a better chance the ball goes in the right spot. So we've worked a ton on that. . . .

"It's the great part about it, really. That consistency and footwork never changes. You want someone to have calm, quiet mechanics in the pocket. Doesn't matter if it's old guys, young guys, guys that are considered running quarterbacks. It's a common thread to good quarterback play, and that's why I hang my hat on it."

Sam Darnold

Of course, getting Darnold ready to play in a new offense is the priority, and from the day the Panthers traded for the former No. 3 overall pick, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule has talked about asking Darnold to be a little more mobile in the pocket.

That's not nearly the same as asking him to take off running, but Ryan said he thinks Darnold has the ability to be the kind of mobile he's looking for.

"Sometimes people miss, in my opinion, subtle movements, in the pocket movements," Ryan said. "To me, less moving parts equals more accuracy. So I think it's a subtle movement up in the pocket, or to the side in the pocket, but I'm still in a great throwing position. And we've done a lot of that this offseason."

To teach that, Ryan will work through change-of-direction drills, throw bags at his quarterbacks' feet, anything to make them adjust on the fly while retaining the proper mechanics.

So far, he's encouraged by the work he's had with Darnold, and said the starter was an excellent student. Coupled with the arm strength which was evident when he was coming out of Southern Cal, his coaches have consistently talked about Darnold's approach to his new job being a good one.

"There's a great combination of seriousness, and really being dedicated to being a good quarterback at this level, and being professional which he definitely is," Ryan said. "He loves football; you see that right away. But sometimes we have long meetings, and there's going to be a five- or 10-minute window where we're going to joke around about whatever, or how bad we are at golf. And he can do that; he can be laid back.

"It's a good combination, and creates a good atmosphere for work in the room. Everybody knows when it's time to go."

Darnold admitted there are still plenty of things he needs to work on before the start of training camp; specifically mentioning becoming more familiar with formations and how they impact the plays he can call.

And that grasp of knowing which step to take next is the key to his learning style.

Joe Brady and Sam Darnold

Offensive coordinator Joe Brady's like every other coach, who can rave about Darnold's "arm talent," but the finer points have impressed him about his new quarterback.

"It's the approach he takes, he's a pro," Brady said of Darnold. "He comes out every single day with a mindset of ready to work and asking questions. As soon as he gets off the football field, he goes in and watches it.

"He's coachable, and what I love is if he makes a mistake one day, the next day, he doesn't make it again. So he's growing from his experiences. And part of building a system is those things. That's what motivates you when you get up, and you're excited about it, because you see the approach he's going with, and you love working with him."

View photos from Thursday's OTA practice at the Atrium Health practice fields.

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