Carolina Panthers Week 5 Report Card

Could the Carolina Panthers be contemplating another quarterback change? Coach John Fox said Monday he still hasn't decided who'll start at quarterback when they return from the bye week to face the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 24.

Fox benched Jimmy Clausen in favor of Matt Moore with less than four minutes to play in Sunday's 23-6 loss to the Chicago Bears after the rookie from Notre Dame threw one pick, fumbled three times, was sacked five times and was generally ineffective. Moore didn't exactly make a case to get his starting job back, throwing two interceptions in his brief action.

"I think it's too early to say," Fox said of the quarterback situation. "We'll evaluate that as we move forward this week."

For the season, Clausen has completed 47.3 percent of his passes with one touchdown and three interceptions for a passer rating of 52.2. He's been sacked nine times and fumbled seven times, turning it over twice.

That brings up the concern of whether or not Clausen's struggles could adversely affect his development in the future, just as it did with David Carr back in his early days with the expansion Houston Texans.

Carr, the No. 1 pick in the 2001 NFL draft, was considered a can't-miss star coming into this league but was sacked so often in Houston he became gun shy in the pocket and has never really recovered.

"I think anytime you don't have success it can thwart your development no matter what position," Fox said. "I think it's no mystery that quarterback is one of the hardest positions to play. I think receiver is right up there with it. If you just look historically in our league, it doesn't happen very often. But nobody comes rescues you. You've just got to get better."

So will Fox, for that reason, turn back to Moore, who has been sacked eight times and has a passer rating of 33.3?

"He stepped in, made a couple good throws," Fox said of Moore's effort. "He did move the team -- kind of. He's a guy that obviously started the season as our starter. He's a guy that obviously we have a good feel about. We have nowhere to go but up in that phase of our game, so it'll be something we look at this week."

NOTES, QUOTES

--One of rookie Jimmy Clausen's biggest problems is holding onto the football. He fumbled three times on Sunday, although the Panthers recovered all of them.

Still, those plays went for losses and disrupted the flow of the offense, destroying the momentum of three drives.

"I think he got away a little too early on one," Fox said. "He didn't have it bellied well enough on the handoff backed up at the other end zone. They are things we can get better at, I'm sure."

Asked if he feels Clausen has regressed in his three starts, Fox replied, "I wouldn't confuse the two games. Every one of these has its own personality. Matchups are different. Without going into too much detail, the other team practices and gets paid, too. Some of that was caused by our opponent, not just the quarterback play."

--Meanwhile, another rookie got a shot to play some quarterback, even if it was only for two plays.

The Panthers activated Armanti Edwards for the first time and used him in the "Mountaineer" package on back-to-back plays Sunday.

The first was a reverse to David Gettis that resulted in a 6-yard loss. The second play was designed to be a pass downfield to Dante Rosario, but he was covered on the play and Edwards tucked it under his arm and ran for 7 yards.

"It felt good to play," said Edwards, who also played some receiver. "I've been waiting awhile to get a chance to go out there."

Edwards said the team only put in two plays for him at quarterback and they used them both. That's why he said he wasn't surprised they didn't go back to it.

"It's kind of hard to go back to it when it's not working," Edwards said.

--The Bears came into the game with only four sacks in four games, so what do the Panthers do? They give up five on Sunday.

And the Bears didn't do anything special.

"They play pretty basic," said guard Mackenzy Bernadeau. "They are a pretty basic defensive team. We were prepared for them, but we were sometimes just one block away or one missed protection. It was pretty basic. One of the most basic defenses we have seen in a while. We just have to execute."

When asked if it's extra pressure having to block for a rookie, Bernadeau said, "I think there is always pressure on the offensive line just because of the fact that there are five of us out there and we are the biggest group on the field. Even though we have a young quarterback out there and he knows what he is doing and is playing to the best of his ability, there is always pressure on the offensive line, and it's our job to protect the quarterback and be able to move guys off the ball and contain the running back. There's always pressure on us, and we just have to get better."

PLAYER NOTES

--WR Devin Thomas was claimed on waivers from the Redskins. The former second-round pick was inconsistent and battled injuries in Washington, where he also returned kickoffs.

--QB Jimmy Clausen was benched in the waning moments of Sunday's game. When asked why he didn't go to Matt Moore earlier on Sunday, coach John Fox said, "You combine some drops, you combine some sacks, poor protection, some false starts. It's not just one guy."

--RB Jonathan Stewart ran for more than 1,100 yards last season, but only has 119 yards in five games.

--DE Charles Johnson continues to lead the Panthers with two sacks.

--RB Mike Goodson is showing some explosiveness as a returner and has upped his average kickoff return to 24.4 yards per return.

--PK John Kasay missed from 51 yards on Sunday, but later converted from 53.

REPORT CARD VS. BEARS

PASSING OFFENSE: F -- The Panthers became the first NFL team to start a rookie quarterback and two rookie receivers in the same game since the Cleveland Browns in 1999. It didn't work out well. With Steve Smith on the bench, the Panthers looked completely out of sync. Clausen completed just 9 of 22 passes for 61 yards and was sacked five times and intercepted once. Clausen also fumbled three times, although he didn't turn the ball over. He was benched in the fourth quarter for Matt Moore, who was 5 of 10 for 35 yards with two interceptions. The receivers didn't help them out. David Gettis and Brandon LaFell combined for just 48 yards on four receptions. Coach John Fox wouldn't say after the game who'll start at quarterback against San Francisco following the bye week. But then again, does it really matter?

RUSHING OFFENSE: D-minus -- The Panthers ranked third in the league in rushing a year ago, but they're nowhere near that level this year. In fact, reaching 100 yards is now an accomplishment for this offense. On Sunday they finished with 85 yards on 25 carries, a 3.4-yard average, and failed to score a touchdown. DeAngelo Williams was held to 51 yards on 12 carries, while Jonathan Stewart went over 100 yards -- for the season! It wasn't that the Panthers didn't try to run the ball. In fact, they did on the first 10 plays of the game, but could never truly establish the ground game. But then, that's been the pattern all season.

PASS DEFENSE: A-plus -- On the flip side, the Panthers were outstanding against the pass, although 38-year-old Todd Collins did a lot to help them out. Collins threw four interceptions prior to getting benched -- with an 11-point lead. The Panthers limited the Bears to 29 net yards passing, the lowest in franchise history. Ed Johnson, Everette Brown, Charles Godfrey and Jordan Pugh all had interceptions for the Panthers. It was Godfrey's fourth pick in five games. The Panthers limited the Bears to 29 net yards passing and had three sacks as well. In total, Chicago's passer rating was 10.1. Give credit where credit is due. The pass defense was outstanding. Too bad it didn't carry over to other areas.

RUSH DEFENSE: F -- The Panthers allowed the NFL's 31st ranked rushing offense to rack up 218 yards and two touchdowns on the ground on 42 carries. The Bears came in averaging just 68.8 yards per game rushing and hadn't scored a rushing touchdown all season. They were victimized in the first quarter by a pair of touchdown runs of 18 and 68 yards from Matt Forte, who finished with a season-high 166 yards on 22 carries. Those scoring runs put the Panthers in a 14-3 hole a young offense simply couldn't dig out of.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- The Panthers gave up some big plays in the return game, including a 62-yarder to Danieal Manning on the opening kickoff -- after winning the coin toss and deferring to the Bears, of course. That led to an 18-yard touchdown run by Forte. Jason Baker punted to Devin Hester early in the game and that led to a 50-yard punt return. Baker learned his lesson after that. John Kasay missed a 51-yard field goal, but did convert from 24 and 53. Mike Goodson had another stellar outing on kickoff returns, averaging 31 yards per return.

COACHING: F -- The offensive play calling continues to leave you scratching your head. Then again, the Panthers don't really have a lot to work with. You can't complain that the Panthers didn't try to establish the run -- they did. They ran it the first 10 plays. Armanti Edwards looked decent in his first two plays as quarterback, but that is all they had in for him -- two plays. Defensively, the Panthers defended the pass well, but they didn't play their gaps on the two touchdown runs. In all, the Panthers have scored five touchdowns and five field goals in five games. That's awful, folks.


Panther Insider Top Stories