Originally Published: September 2, 2010
Chris Keane/Icon SMI JOHN CLAYTON QB RANKING (32): Matt Moore has a 6-2 record as a starting quarterback, but he doesn't have a lot of experience playing against top defenses.

Expert Picks (Consensus: 3rd)

Intelligence Report

Five things you need to know about the Panthers:

1. Fox watch begins: Is this John Fox's last year in Carolina? More than likely. It's pretty obvious Fox needs a winning season to be offered an extension to a contract that runs only through this season. If the Panthers don't do that, Fox goes. But let's say they do have a winning season. The common fan assumption is that would make everything warm and fuzzy in Carolina, and Fox would want to stay and continue with his young team. But fans might be a half-mile off on this one. Fox is a guy with pride and, like any human being, ego. I easily can see a scenario in which owner Jerry Richardson comes to Fox with a new contract after a winning season and Fox says something like, "It was nice working for you, but I'm going to coach the [fill in the blank] because they've offered me long-term security."

2. Don't expect turmoil: Does the uncertainty about Fox mean a tumultuous season on the field? No, not at all. One thing about Fox is he always has kept the Panthers respectable. This is a guy who found ways to win games with Vinny Testaverde and David Carr playing quarterback. He can flat out coach, and that's not going to stop. He's got a point to prove this season, and he traditionally has been at his best when expectations aren't that high.

3. Is Moore enough? Can the Panthers really win with Matt Moore at quarterback? Remember one thing: The Panthers went to the Super Bowl with Jake Delhomme in his first full season as a starter. You can even make a case that Moore is more advanced than Delhomme was when he first joined the Panthers. Moore was starting and playing well at the end of last season. The Panthers don't need a superstar at quarterback. With their running game, they just need a quarterback who can manage a game and not turn over the ball. Moore will get his chance. If he can't be efficient, the Panthers have Jimmy Clausen standing in the on-deck circle.

4. Smith's drive: Will Steve Smith be a factor? The wide receiver broke his arm in a flag football game earlier this summer and missed much of the preseason. But sitting on the sideline for camp might have been the best thing to happen to Smith. It gave him time to think, and Smith is a guy who thrives on inner motivation. He's going to come out feeling like he has something to prove, and that's when he's at his best. He could turn Moore into a very good quarterback right away.

5. Defensive uncertainty: The defense doesn't look like a Fox defense. The days of Carolina's defense being built around the front four are long gone, with Julius Peppers' departure representing the disappearance of the last dinosaur. The Panthers are counting on some young guys emerging up front, and players such as Greg Hardy and Eric Norwood showed flashes in the preseason. But linebacker Jon Beason is the only player offenses must account for on every play. Beason is a tremendous player, but he can't carry a defense and is going to need help from a lot of angles.

-- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN.com

Scouts Inc.'s Fabulous Five

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