Carolina Controversy: Cam or Clausen?

For his first article in a Creature uniform, Sway breaks down the impending quarterback controversy in Carolina. Although, as you’ll see, he doesn’t think there should be much of a controversy at all. Continue reading to find out why.

Good morning readers. For my first article as a Bleacher Creature, I would like to discuss the impact of one of the most controversial and electrifying players to recently enter (wait, it’s still closed) the National Football League: Cameron Jarell Newton. Before I dozed off to sleep the other night, I watched ESPN’s resident cougar Colleen Dominguez interview Carolina Panthers quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Clausen discussed his feelings on the Panthers upcoming season and on his fellow teammate, Cam Newton. For those of you who are unaware with Carolina’s quarterbacking situation, let’s lay down the basics.

The Carolina Panthers had a dismal campaign in 2010. Their year began in late April when they decided to draft the highly touted quarterback from Notre Dame, Jimmy Clausen. Clausen was projected as a first round pick, but scouts doubted his toughness and deep passing ability late in the pre-draft process. As a result, Clausen slipped to the middle of the second round, where he was snagged by the Panthers with the 48th pick. Matt Moore, the incumbent starter going into the season, was sidelined with an injury early in the season, and the reins of the team were handed to Clausen. His play was less than stellar to put it nicely. Clausen suited up in 13 of his teams 16 games, while starting in ten of those games. He managed to throw just 3 touchdowns, while racking up 9 interceptions. His 52.5 completion percentage was 2nd worst in the league. His Panthers finished with a paltry 2-14 record.

Fast forward to 2011. Panthers’ management decided to axe veteran head coach John Fox, and brought in San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera to turn the team in the right direction. Among his first, and, to this point, only duties as head coach, Rivera had the unenviable task of using the team’s number 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. With that pick, Rivera and the Panthers brain trust selected one of the best player/athlete/quarterbacks in recent college football history, Cam Newton. This guy is a freaking stud. The way he lead the Auburn Tigers to the 2011 National Championship was truly unbelievable. Standing at 6’5” and weighing in at 250 pounds, this guy has a linebackers frame, a cornerbacks speed, a wide receivers agility, and a fullbacks aggression. With this package of talents, Cam is the real deal. The NFL hasn’t seen a player this dynamic and special in arguably 5 years, when Vince Young was drafted to the Titans. For Newton, though, I expect to see a much different result than Young’s trial in Tennessee. But let’s get back to the matter at hand, who the hell is going to be taking snaps for the Carolina Panthers in 2011 (that is, if there is a 2011).

Given the current state of the NFL, players have been voluntarily organizing practices and workouts to prepare themselves and their teammates for the pending season. Since there are no coaches present at these summer sessions due to lockout policy, it is largely the responsibility of the veteran players and last year’s starters to conduct the practices and to teach their new, younger teammates the ins and outs of the playbooks and systems. What does this situation look like in Carolina? In his interview, Clausen seemed confident that he would be the go-to quarterback in 2011. He noted that he is teaching the team the offense and working on routes, timing, and coordination with his backs and receivers to “make the team better.” But at the end of the day, all this really means is that Jimmy Clausen is teaching Cam Newton the offense that Newton will be running and Clausen will be watching in the very near future in Carolina. What head coach in the NFL doesn’t want to have a quarterback with a Brady-like cannon, the ability to run over linebackers, and evade pressure in the pocket like Roethlisberger? None. Newton is not only a truly amazing talent on the field, but has an unbelievable ability to take an opposing crowd out of the game with his dazzling moves around defenders and his knack for clutch play making. If you watched him lead Auburn to victory against Alabama in Tuscaloosa last season, after the Tigers found themselves in a 24-0 hole at halftime, you would surely agree with that statement. Newton was brought in because Clausen could not do the job last season and Clausen will enter the season on the hot seat.

Here is my outlook for the Carolina Panthers in 2011. When the preseason gets underway, and the coaches re-enter the picture, Cam will have a lot of learning and film study to do. If he thought learning college schemes were tough, he’s in for quite the wake-up call in Charlotte. I believe that he will take about 35% of the snaps in preseason games, leaving Clausen with 55%, and the remaining 10% to Tony Pike (yes, that would the Panthers’ third string quarterback). As soon as the regular season gets going, Clausen is going to be playing to keep his job week in and week out. His leash will be short entering the season and if he does happen to slip up and not win the games that he should, look for Newton to be making an appearance early in the season and possibly becoming the starter after the Panthers bye in Week 9. By that point in the season, Cam Newton should be wearing #2 and

Jimmy Clausen will be sitting as QB #2. Look for Carolina to dump Clausen at the end of the season if he does not retain the starting job to clear up some money; he may have the potential to be a starter somewhere else in the NFL, but I would not have him start and let the one of the best athletes in the league sit on the bench.

Disclosure: I am short Clausen and long Newton.

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One Response to Carolina Controversy: Cam or Clausen?

  1. Pingback: 2nd and 10 « The Bleacher Creatures

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