Panthers Report Card, Week 2

The Jimmy Clausen era has officially begun. Coach John Fox said Clausen will start Sunday's game against Cincinnati, making the decision to bench Matt Moore after the Panthers opened the season 0-2 and managed just two touchdowns on offense.

"We have to spark our offense, in particular the passing game, so we're going to start Jimmy Clausen this week," Fox said Monday at his weekly press conference. "We'll see how that renders. We'll let Matt Moore sit back and watch. But we have to do something to spark our passing game."

Moore has turned the ball over six times this season, four of those on interceptions. He completed just 41 percent of his passes for 307 yards and has a QB rating of 41.8.

Carolina's passing game ranks 28th in the league.

"All in all over the course of four preseason games and two regular season games we've just been not getting it done," Fox said. "Jimmy is a guy we think highly of. We think he made the most of his opportunities on Sunday. We'll see how it goes this week."

Clausen took over with 10:03 left in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against Tampa Bay with the Panthers trailing 20-7.

He drove the Panthers 79 yards to the Bucs 1-yard line, but Jonathan Stewart was stuffed on a fourth down run and Tampa Bay took over. Clausen threw an interception on his next possession and finished the game 7-of-13 for 59 yards for a quarterback rating of 33.8. Moore was 6-of-16 for 125 yards with one touchdown and one interception for a quarterback rating of 60.7.

Fox said he hasn't lost faith in Moore.

"This isn't an indictment on Matt at all," Fox said. "I wouldn't want him to agree with the decision. I don't think he will. I don't know where our confidence level is on offense. This is just a move to try to spark our offense and we'll see how it goes. This isn't a situation where all of the blame is on Matt. We've played different wideouts. We've had a couple of different lines rotating through there... We're going to try our hand with Jimmy Clausen."

A three-year starter at Notre Dame, Clausen was selected 48th overall by the Panthers in this year's NFL draft.

He played in a similar offensive system with the Irish under Charlie Weis, which helped ease his transition to the professional level.

"He was prepared (to play early)," Fox said. "A lot of college offenses these days don't even line up under the center. They're doing quite a bit of spread offense, so they're much different than a pro-oriented offense. I think playing in a pro passing attack in college is definitely an advantage."

Fox said he's been impressed with Clausen's "football IQ" coming out of college, although he admitted he hasn't been around many highly drafted quarterbacks since coming into the league.

"Jimmy is a guy that as you evaluate guys coming out had a good feel for the game, a good football IQ, so I can't say that he's really surprised me in that way," Fox said. "I think he's very capable from a mental standpoint to make that step. Now to do it out there in a game setting for four quarters, he hasn't had that opportunity yet, so we'll get a chance to see."

Moore won four of five games down the stretch last season for the Panthers, posting an impressive quarterback rating of 98.5.

The Panthers signed him to an offer sheet as a restricted free agent, agreeing to pay him $3.043 million this season. Moore will become an unrestricted free agent after this season, so he could have used to big season to cash in.

When asked what has been the difference from Moore's play late last season to this year, Fox said, "Again, this is not just Matt. It's our offense overall as far as it relates to the passing game. I can't look back and say (Sunday) was all Matt's fault. We had breakdowns in different areas. I think I can say that over the last six games. I think right now this isn't so much about Matt but about us being able to make some plays in the passing game."


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--WR Steve Smith took a shot to his wrist from Tampa Bay CB Elbert Mack on Sunday, but said X-rays revealed no broken bones.

"It was a good shot," Smith said. "His facemask went right into my wrist. I was pretty nervous and it brought back some bad memories. But, it's feeling good."

Smith said the wrist is "a little sore" and will probably be hurting more on Monday.

Smith finished the game with three receptions for 66 yards and a 37-yard touchdown, his second of the season.

The Panthers reported no injuries from the game.

--Carolina's defense continues to struggle getting off the field on third down.

On Sunday, the Bucs converted five of seven third-down chances in the first half.

Kellen Winslow, in particular, was a huge pain for the Panthers. The Tampa Bay tight end had 83 yards receiving on four third-down receptions, all of those resulting in first downs. On one third-and-17 play, Josh Freeman eluded two defenders in the backfield and fired a bullet 40 yards downfield for Winslow.

"(Freeman) played great," said linebacker Jon Beason. "He made some nice passes and showed his athletic ability by scrambling when he had to. That's what the game comes down to. We were awful on third downs. Kellen made some plays, some with his hands and some with his legs."

--As has been a problem throughout the preseason and the first two weeks of the regular season, Matt Moore struggled with overthrowing receivers on deep routes.

He overthrew both WR David Gettis and TE Dante Rosario after they'd gotten behind the defense.

"You practice those things and they work out," Moore said. "In a game, the last thing you want to do is underthrow a ball, but you don't want to leave your receiver out there hanging like the one to Gettis. You just have to hit those. Those are the situations we have to hit to be successful."

--Despite the return of RB Tyrell Sutton, Mike Goodson remained the team's third-down back Sunday and did pretty well, finishing with five carries for 20 yards and two catches for 33 yards. Goodson was used effectively on screen plays, showing a good burst of speed.

"You just got to time everything up with the linebackers," Goodson said. "The linebackers can mess the whole play up so it's a timing thing. But if you get out and get it sometimes it's either a first down or a touchdown."

Goodson had one nice kickoff return of 43 yards, but also misplayed another that went off his hands and out of bounds at the 6-yard line.

"I was kind of caught in the middle of do I let the ball bounce -- because it didn't look like it was going to go out of bounds right away -- or do I catch it?" Goodson said. "In my indecision, I ended up dropping it. That was kind of bad, but all it did was fired me up for the next return and we got a big one."


--QB Jimmy Clausen has been named the starting quarterback for Sunday's game against Cincinnati.

--WR Steve Smith took a shot to his wrist on the final play of Sunday's game, but said X-rays showed no broken bones.

--RB Mike Goodson seems to have firmly established himself as the team's third down back.

--RT Jeff Otah has missed the last two games with a knee injury and it's unclear exactly when he'll return.

--DT Louis Leonard did not play Sunday because of an elbow injury.

--DE Tyler Brayton did not play Sunday after injuring his ankle last week.

--WR David Gettis, a rookie sixth-round pick from Baylor, got the start over four-year veteran Dwayne Jarrett.


RUN OFFENSE: Grade: C-minus -- The Panthers just can't get their running game in sync. Although they rushed for 119 yards on 33 carries, a respectable 3.6-yard average, they simply aren't playing with a lot of consistency. DeAngelo Williams had 54 yards on 17 carries, while Jonathan Stewart added 43 yards on eight carries. Mike Goodson chipped in with 20 yards on five carries. "I think we are a pretty balanced offense right now," Williams said. "It comes down to making our plays consistently. We are not making our plays consistently, which is what you have to do to win ball games."

PASS OFFENSE: D-minus -- Matt Moore completed just 6-of-16 passes for 125 yards, 37 of them on a touchdown pass to Steve Smith on fourth-and-4. Outside of that play, Moore really struggled with overthrowing receivers and also was picked by Ronde Barber in his end of the field. He was benched in the fourth quarter for Jimmy Clausen, who will start this week. Together, they had a QB rating of 48.6. "I don't know what the biggest difference (from the end of last year) is," Moore said. "I feel, scheme-wise it's the same. We just need to keep at it and turn this thing around."

RUN DEFENSE: B -- Carolina was without two starting defensive linemen and held the Bucs to 95 yards on 34 carries. A good portion of those (43) came from Josh Freeman, who scrambled out of trouble at key moments of the game and kept the Panthers off balance. "We did a good job of stopping the run game, had a couple big hits," said Dan Connor, who finished with six tackles. "All together as a defense though, we have to get better, we're just not good enough right now."

PASS DEFENSE: D-minus -- The Panthers look like they might really struggle with mobile quarterbacks this year. Freeman's speed killed them and he created a lot of plays with his feet. Freeman (12-of-24 for 178 yards) threw a pair of touchdown passes and was near perfect in the first half with a QB rating of 145.1. He finished the game at 102.4. The Panthers didn't have any interceptions and failed to register a sack. Carolina has now allowed five passing touchdowns in two games.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Richard Marshall was called for two holding penalties on punt returns, costing his team 20 yards and nullifying a 33-yard return by Captain Munnerlyn. Mike Goodson had a 43-yard return but also botched one kickoff, allowing it to go off his hands at the 6-yard line. Jason Baker was solid with two punts inside the 20, including a 53-yarder.

COACHING: C -- Can't particularly say it's the coaching, although it sure would be nice to see a reverse or something out of the ordinary on offense. But in the end it comes down to a lack of weapons in the passing game. If anything, you can pin that on ownership and/or management for not going out and getting a big-time No. 2 wide receiver this past offseason. Making the switch to Jimmy Clausen is a good decision moving forward.

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