Panthers Report Card, Week 3

Jimmy Clausen will get a chance to work on handling snaps this week in practice as well as on Sunday when the Carolina Panthers face the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

Coach John Fox said Monday that Clausen will "more than likely" start against the Saints despite a rough outing in his NFL starting debut against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Clausen fumbled three times on Sunday, turning it over twice, and threw an interception as the Panthers lost at home 20-7.

Clausen has struggled with snaps almost since his arrival in Charlotte, although most the problems were written off to him working with backup centers. But it carried over to Sunday's game as he fumbled two snaps from Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil, who has never had a problem delivering snaps.

"Well, we probably have 70 to 80 of those a day," Fox said. "I'm not sure we can practice it 24-7, but we'll continue to work that because it has been an issue."

Clausen's first bumbled snap came on the fourth play of the game after Charles Godfrey had come up with an interception off Carson Palmer and set the Panthers up in Bengals territory.

The Bengals recovered that one, ending a chance to draw first blood.

He bobbled later in the game deep in his own territory, but guard Travelle Wharton recovered.

Clausen took blame for both fumbles.

He also had a bad exchange with running back Mike Goodson on a handoff, resulting in a second half turnover. The other turnover was an interception he threw behind Steve Smith in the red zone.

"I have to take care of the football, get the snap, don't force the ball," Clausen said. "When you are throwing it, lead him and put it in the right spot so he can make the play."

So far, the Panthers have committed 12 turnovers in three games.

"We're turning the ball over too much," Fox said. "The variety last week was more sack-fumbles. This week they were just fumbles, whether it be in the run game or the center-quarterback exchange.

"But either way they're turnovers that give the short field for the opponent."

Clausen completed 16 of 33 passes for 188 yards on Sunday, but managed to lead the Panthers to just one touchdown drive.

But Fox refused to put the loss all on Clausen.

"Much like earlier things I've said I don't think our issues have all been the quarterback," Fox said.

Fox saw both positives and negatives in Clausen's play.

"I thought he spit the ball out pretty quick and he was cognizant of some of the assignments as far as identification he did pretty well. All in all he did pretty well in that area," Fox said. "(But) we need to work on, not just him, but center-quarterback exchange would be a big one."

NOTES, QUOTES

--Carolina defenders dropped four would-be interceptions in a 20-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, including one by cornerback Chris Gamble in the left flat that would have made for an easy 65-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Safety Sherrod Martin also let a pick go through his hands and linebacker James Anderson dropped two.

"If we make those plays it's a whole different game," Anderson said. "Some of those plays might have gone for touchdowns."

It rained for much of the game and Anderson said a wet ball might have been a factor, but quickly added, "You can't use that as an excuse.

"The first one I should have scored. The second one was kind of tough, but they were both catchable balls."

--One of the areas the Panthers again struggled in offensively was on third down, where they converted just 2 of 11 opportunities. For the season, they've been successful on just 34 percent (15 of 44) of their third-down conversions.

--Jimmy Clausen may not have been terribly productive in his starting debut, but tackle Jordan Gross said he was impressed with the rookie's poise in the huddle.

"With his preparation and his poise, you can tell he's comfortable in his own skin back there," Gross said. "The quarterback wasn't the reason we lost, it was the offense as a whole. I think Jimmy is going to do a nice job."

--Right tackle Jeff Otah missed his third straight game and OT Jordan Gross thinks that may be one of the reasons Carolina's numbers are down in the running game.

"Jeff is a great player and is a force on that right side," Gross said. "I think Geoff Schwartz has done a nice job stepping in there for him. I think if we had Otah in there we would maybe have some more yards on the ground, but that's not the issue. I think everyone is taking a turn on offense being the problem. It's all of us right now."

Like other teams in the past, the Bengals stacked the box against the Panthers.

"If defenses aren't afraid of our passing game, it's going to be that much tougher," Gross said. "There are no magic words. It's not like we can just fix one thing and everything will get better. We have to do it altogether. ... It's the same song, defenses stack the box and put two guys on Smitty (Steve Smith) and it's tough. But we have to figure out a way to do it."

PLAYER NOTES

--LB Jamar Williams (neck) was the only player listed as having been hurt on Sunday. His status moving forward is unknown, but it wouldn't be a surprised if Williams is out for awhile.

--WR David Gettis got the start Sunday over Brandon LaFell and Dwayne Jarrett, who was inactive.

--RB DeAngelo Williams again didn't get a lot of carries. Williams ran the ball just 10 times for 64 yards.

--RB Jonathan Stewart scored the team's first rushing touchdown of the season, but was limited to 13 yards on eight carries.

--QB Jimmy Clausen is "more than likely" to start against New Orleans, according to coach John Fox.

REPORT CARD VS. BENGALS

PASSING OFFENSE: D-minus - QB Jimmy Clausen really struggled in the first half with a passer rating of 0.0. He did better in the second half to finish 16 of 33 for 88 yards with one interception. Still, the Panthers weren't crisp in the passing game and failed to get WR Steve Smith (3 catches, 22 yards) involved in the offense. To put things in perspective, Goodson led the team with four catches for 47 yards. Clausen said he didn't throw to Smith much because he was mostly double covered, which is nothing new. When asked about the team not having an established second wide receiver, Smith responded, "I can't do anything about that. I'm just going to run my routes. They tell me to run a dig and I'm going to run a bad mamma-jamma dig. That's what I'm going to do."

RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- The Panthers gained just 87 yards on 24 carries and turned the ball three times on fumbles by RB Jonathan Stewart, QB Jimmy Clausen (fumbled snap) and another on an exchange between Clausen and RB Mike Goodson. Those aren't great numbers for a team that averaged 156.1 yards per game on the ground last season. RB DeAngelo Williams had a 26-yard run on Carolina's first series but was out of the game for a good portion of the second quarter and finished with 64 yards on 10 carries. Stewart scored the team's first rushing touchdown of the season, but had just 13 yards on eight carries and the big fumble in the fourth quarter which led to Cincinnati's game-clinching touchdown. "Unfortunately for us we kind of fell behind," Williams said. "When you fall behind you get out of your element and I think that's what Cincinnati had to their advantage. Once we got behind we weren't able to run the ball like we wanted to and we had to play from behind. All three games we've had to play from behind and we had to throw the ball."

PASS DEFENSE: D -- The Panthers intercepted QB Carson Palmer twice, but they missed a ton of opportunities (LB James Anderson dropped two potential interceptions with CB Chris Gamble and SS Sherrod Martin dropping one each). Gamble's was particularly costly as it would have been a sure pick-six. "Going into it I thought we would have the opportunity to make a play on the ball," Beason said. "It's very difficult to catch a wet football not that that's any excuse. They caught the ball. The receivers on our team caught the ball. We didn't. Five or six of them. It definitely would have helped the offense out and we didn't get it done."

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- The Bengals controlled the ball on offense as RB Cedric Benson ran 27 times for 81 yards and scored on the ground, as well as through the air. However, Benson only averaged 3 yards per carry and the Bengals as a team averaged just 3.2 yards per carry. "That's the sad part," said LB Jon Beason. "It's nothing that they're doing in particular. That's the way I feel about all three games. We've just got to execute and stop shooting ourselves in the foot."

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- The only big play on special teams came when the Bengals faked a punt on fourth-and-2 at their own 40 and Brian Leonard ran four yards to pick up a first down and keep a drive alive. Goodson did a decent job on returns and Carolina's coverage teams didn't have any snafus. Still, with the offense struggling, the Panthers need to manufacture some big plays on special teams. Rhys Lloyd lost his footing on one kickoff but put his other opportunity in the end zone.

COACHING: C-minus -- The Panthers tried to get things turned around by making a switch at quarterback. Obviously, it didn't work out. The bottom line is the Panthers don't have the offensive weapons at this point to compete at the NFL level. The team continues to fall behind and has to abandon the running game. And they don't have the ability to come from behind. Interesting that Dwayne Jarrett was inactive. I'm not sure how Panther coach John Fox kept a straight face when he said he still has confidence in the fourth-year pro and perennial disappointment. It's easy to pin these three losses on offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson, but the reality is he has yet to turn the ball over 12 times in three games -- the players have.



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