Key Matchups

There is no such thing as an easy game for a 1-9 team, but Sunday's matchup against the Cleveland Browns may be the most winnable game left on the schedule for the Panthers. Here is a look at the three matchups they must win, as well as a look at game strategy and player notes.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

QB Jake Delhomme vs. Panthers secondary.

Delhomme, a former Panther, is expected to start for the Browns, which adds at least a little intrigue to this matchup between two teams that have four combined wins. Delhomme knows the Panthers' strengths and weaknesses inside and out. And vice versa.

QB Jimmy Clausen vs. Browns secondary.

In his last start against Tampa Bay, Clausen did a nice job of not turning the ball over. He'll be asked to do the same against the Browns.

Browns RB Peyton Hillis vs. Panthers front seven.

The Panthers have struggled of late defending the run and will have their hands full with Hillis, who may be the surprise player of the year in the NFL.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL


QB Jimmy Clausen
Streeter Lecka/Getty
With the status of Jimmy Clausen and Brian St. Pierre up in the air, the Panthers signed quarterback Keith Null to the practice squad Tuesday. Null worked out for the Panthers two weeks ago but did not sign. The Panthers wound up signing St. Pierre instead.

Null could still join the 53-man roster and, with the way things are going around here, possibly be in position to start against Cleveland by the end of the week depending on Clausen and St. Pierre's status.

Clausen is nursing a concussion but did practice Wednesday and will start barring any setbacks.

St. Pierre complained of soreness in his shoulder after Sunday's loss to Baltimore and all but ruled himself out for this week saying he simply can't throw right now.

Panthers coach John Fox has been reluctant to put rookies Tony Pike and Armanti Edwards on the field, which would position Null nicely for a chance to start if Clausen has a setback, particularly if Clausen isn't cleared medically.

Null, 25, is a former sixth-round draft pick by the St. Louis Rams out of West Texas A&M. The 6-foot-4, 219-pound Null started the final four games of the 2009 season for the Rams, completing 73 of 119 passes for 566 yards with three touchdowns and nine interceptions.

To make room for Null, the Panthers placed linebacker Sean Ware on practice squad injured reserve.

--The Panthers also signed safety Gerald Alexander to the 53-man roster and waived wide receiver Devin Thomas. The 6-foot-2, 204-pound Alexander was drafted in the second round (61st overall) by the Lions in 2007. He started 30 of 39 games played in four seasons, posting four interceptions, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. Alexander was a four-year letterman at Boise State. The move was necessitated by injuries to Marcus Hudson and Jordan Pugh, which left the Panthers thin at safety.

Thomas was a former a second-round pick by Washington, but he never could make an impact in practice for the Panthers after being claimed off waivers last month. He was active for last week's game against Baltimore but dropped a pass and didn't do much in the return game.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Jimmy Clausen (concussion) returned to practice full on Wednesday and will start if he's cleared by the medical staff.

--RB Jonathan Stewart (concussion) returned to practice full on Wednesday and said he would play Sunday vs. Cleveland. Look for that to be in a backup role behind Mike Goodson.

--RB Tyrell Sutton (ankle) didn't practice Wednesday and won't play this week.

--WR Brandon LaFell (concussion) returned to practice Wednesday and is expected to play Sunday.

--S Jordan Pugh (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday and could miss this week's game. That is why the team signed Gerald Alexander.

--DB Marcus Hudson (ankle) remained out of practice Wednesday after missing Sunday's game against Baltimore.

--G Travelle Wharton (turf toe) remains on the shelf.

--CB Chris Gamble sat out practice Wednesday for personal reasons but should play Sunday.

--CB Captain Munnerlyn (shoulder) did not practice Wednesday, and his status is unclear moving forward.



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