Ryan Kalil made a name for himself as a longtime member of the Carolina Panthers. He finished his career with the New York Jets. Now, with his old Jets teammate Sam Darnold in Carolina, the former Pro Bowl center has opened up about the young quarterback. Having played for both the Jets and the Panthers, Kalil told The Athletic's Joseph Person on Thursday that he thinks Darnold is bound for a big rebound, arguing that Adam Gase and the previous Jets regime stunted the QB's growth coming out of college.
"I had nothing but a positive experience with him," Kalil said of Darnold. "I saw a guy who wanted to be good and didn't take anything for granted. But I just think he was in a system that wasn't beneficial for him. ... It was a system that didn't allow a lot of individual freedom. It was very, 'You do it this way and that's it.' A lot of the scheme was pre-determined based on what they thought they were seeing from the sideline. It didn't give Sam a lot of room to grow, in my opinion, to make decisions on the fly. It worked in some instances, but it handicapped him in the long run."
Kalil, who spent the first 11 seasons of his NFL career in Carolina, shares an alma mater with Darnold, coming out of USC. He also shared his opinion on Darnold with the Panthers, according to Person, helping advise the team's front office when it initially explored trade talks for the QB.
"Everybody ooh'd and ahh'd about (Zach Wilson) at BYU's pro day when he rolled out left and threw across to the right," Kalil said, referring to Darnold's presumptive successor in New York. "And it's like, I've seen Sam do that a million times. It's funny, there's game tape of Sam doing that exact thing."
A five-time Pro Bowler who retired after the 2019 season, Kalil isn't alone in his hope for Darnold. Panthers coach Matt Rhule said earlier this week that Carolina strongly believes in the former first-round pick's potential, all but crowning him the Opening Day starter.