QB Controversy Arrives Early

Let the quarterback controversy officially begin for the Carolina Panthers.

Coach John Fox benched starter Matt Moore in the fourth quarter of a 20-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday and replaced him with rookie Jimmy Clausen after the offense struggled for a second straight week. After the game, Fox was non-committal over who'll start at quarterback next Sunday at home against Cincinnati.

"It's way too early," Fox said. "Right now I can't make that decision at this point. Matt has not been benched (for next week) at this point. We'll go with whoever gives us the best chance to win next week and that will take some time."

Moore completed just 6 of 16 passes for 125 yards with one touchdown and two turnovers before being benched with 10:03 left in the fourth quarter. He overthrew two receivers on deep balls that could have been touchdown passes.

"I think anyone would be a little disappointed but at the same time I respect coach John Fox's decision and that's where it is," Moore said.

QB Jimmy Clausen
Streeter Lecka
As for why he made the switch, Fox said, "The game was not going our way. Jimmy's a good, young quarterback and we gave him some opportunities to get some reps."

Clausen immediately provided his team with a lift, driving them 79 yards on 17 plays before the Bucs stuffed running back Jonathan Stewart on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Clausen's next drive ended in an interception that sealed first place Tampa Bay's second straight win of the season.

Of course, you have to wonder if it really matters who starts at quarterback given their dearth of weapons in the passing game.

Brandon LaFell didn't play because of a hamstring injury and the Panthers only activated three receivers - Smith, Gettis and Dwayne Jarrett. Management didn't try to trade for or sign a free agent No. 2 wide receiver this past offseason, instead electing to draft LaFell, Gettis and Armanti Edwards, who still hasn't seen the field this year.

"They don't have a lot in the way of threats over there at wide receiver," said Bucs veteran cornerback Ronde Barber.

LINEUP WATCH: For all of the talk about just how much the Carolina Panthers love Dwayne Jarrett, they sure don't seem to trust him -- not enough to start.

With rookie Brandon LaFell out with a strained hamstring, Armanti Edwards inactive and Charly Martin on injured reserve, it seemed a no-brainer that Jarrett, now in his fourth season, would start opposite Steve Smith on Sunday against Tampa Bay, especially with only three wide receivers dressing for the game.

Instead, the team turned to rookie David Gettis from Baylor, who didn't play at all in the season opener against the New York Giants.

"We are trying to find out who can play," coach John Fox said. "LaFell had a little hamstring issue last week. David Gettis is a guy that we like. Without looking at the tape, he made some plays today. We are still looking at that wide receiver spot. Dwayne played. He had a role."

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 -- Number of sacks allowed by Carolina's offensive line this season.


--QB Matt Moore was benched for rookie Jimmy Clausen on Sunday and it's unclear who'll start next week.

--WR David Gettis got the start over Dwayne Jarrett on Sunday with Brandon LaFell out with a hamstring injury.

--RT Jeff Otah missed his second straight game with a knee injury.

--DT Louis Leonard sat out with an elbow injury.

--WR Brandon LaFell did not play because of a hamstring injury.

--WR Steve Smith has accounted for both touchdowns this season for Carolina. Smith did take a shot to his wrist late in the game but said he's fine and had no broken bones.

Is it time to turn to rookie Jimmy Clausen? Discuss inside the message boards.

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