‘Zylstra did amazing’: Sam Darnold compliments former CFL all-star on first NFL TD catch

Photo courtesy: Chanelle Smith-Walker/Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers are off to a 2-0 start this season with former CFL all-star receiver Brandon Zylstra playing a role in the club’s success.

“Zylstra did amazing,” said quarterback Sam Darnold in a press conference. “The way he came out, he just made big plays. He was there, he was in the right spot every time. He did a great job.”

Zylstra was on the field for 14 offensive snaps in Sunday’s win over the New Orleans Saints and caught all three of his targets for 44 yards and a touchdown. The score came early in the first quarter from 20 yards out with the Panthers working off play-action.

“[Darnold] just kinda found me. I think there were three or four of us in the route there. I obviously have to watch the film but I’m just happy it went to me on that one,” said Zylstra.

“I ended up having a bullet play — just a one-step slant. I can’t even take credit for it because we were so good in the run game today. We accomplished our goals in the run game as far as I know and that just allowed them to open that up for me. It was just one of those things — if it’s there, take it and I happened to be there today.”

The 28-year-old scored his first NFL touchdown last season, though it came on special teams after Washington’s Steven Sims Jr. fumbled the ball on a muffed punt return. Zylstra has primarily made his living on special teams since making the jump to the NFL in 2018 and even helped make the tackle on the ensuing kickoff following his touchdown.

CFL fans will remember Zylstra from his two seasons with the Edmonton Elks (2016-17) during which he recorded 134 receptions for 2,195 yards and right touchdowns in just 22 career games.

Chuba Hubbard recorded his first career carry on Sunday, finishing the game with eight rushes for ten yards. The native of Sherwood Park, Alta. was also involved in Carolina’s offence in a Week 1 victory over the New York Jets, catching two passes for four yards and returning one kickoff for 21 yards.

Canadians will get a chance to watch Zylstra and Hubbard play in primetime on Thursday night when the Panthers visit the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium at 8:20 p.m. ET.