Big Question: Should Clausen start?

July, 13, 2010
7/13/10
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NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

How will Carolina coach John Fox handle the development of rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen?

[+] EnlargeJimmy Clausen
Sam Sharpe/US PresswireJimmy Clausen is just the quarterback the Panthers need, but he might not start right away.
Under normal conditions, Clausen’s fall to the second round and into the hands of the Panthers would be considered a blessing. Under the current circumstances, though, his presence puts added pressure on Fox.

Clausen, as a quarterback prospect, is just what the Panthers have been looking for as a replacement for the departed Jake Delhomme. He’s smart, talented and comes from a big-time school in Notre Dame. But Fox doesn’t have the luxury to think long term. Despite his success, Fox is in the final year of his contract and there is a good chance he could leave after the season. Fox must win now, which can be difficult with a rookie quarterback.

Fox has spent the offseason with Matt Moore as the starter. Not trying to rush Clausen, Fox has had him working as the third-string quarterback behind Moore and Hunter Cantwell. To some degree, having Cantwell ahead of Clausen has slowed his development because Clausen has had fewer reps with the starters. With Moore, Clausen and Tony Pike on the roster, Cantwell won’t make the 53-man roster unless there is an injury.

Further complicating things is the broken arm suffered by wide receiver Steve Smith. None of the quarterbacks gets to work with their go-to wide receiver until the start of the regular season. Clausen has the benefit of knowing the offense. Jeff Davidson, the Panthers’ offensive coordinator, worked with former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis in New England and has installed the same system Clausen ran in college. The conventional thought is that Moore enters the season as a starter, but if teams figure him out and the Panthers lose some games, Clausen could get the nod. Still, the Panthers are mostly a running offense, so it could be easier to start Clausen at the beginning if Fox wanted. It’s a tricky situation to sort out this summer.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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