Carolina Panthers Training Camp Preview: Quarterbacks

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 01: Quarterback Tony Pike #15 of the Cincinnati Bearcats throws the ball against the Florida Gators during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisana Superdome on January 1, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

So far we’ve previewed the offensive line and defensive front. Today, we’ll take a look at the offensive “field general” position for the Carolina Panthers.

Four months ago, I wasn’t sure about what to expect at this position. The Panthers had released Jake Delhomme as quickly as possible, they didn’t re-sign either of the veteran backup quarterbacks — A.J. Feeley and Josh McCown — and with the purging of aging players, it certainly didn’t seem right that Carolina was looking for aging veteran experience, a-la Donovan McNabb, Marc Bulger, Jeff Garcia, etc.

The time between the start of free agency and the 2010 NFL Draft, crawled at a snail’s pace. During that time, Carolina only had two quarterbacks on the roster: Matt Moore and Hunter Cantwell.

Most of us were fairly comfortable with Moore. The guy showed us what he is capable of in the last five weeks of the 2009 regular season. Perhaps in some ways, he left us wanting more. Unfortunately, he has no control over when the regular season ends. He certainly had no control of when it would be his time to take over the starting job.

Cantwell has been something of a mystery to this point, and maybe longer. The rumors going around, are the Panthers’ front office love Cantwell’s arm. Perhaps there’s more to it, but in a nutshell, that’s all I’ve been consistently hearing. So we’ll save that for training camp and preseason.

Draft day came along, but without a first-round pick, Carolina was left waiting. I wasn’t sure for how long, given the last couple of years’ history, I half expected general manager Marty Hurney to make a deal to move up into the first-round. But when he announced the night before the draft that the Panthers had no plans of moving into the first-round, we finally gained some closure.

On the second day of the draft, I don’t know what my fellow fans were thinking, but instead of Jimmy Clausen, I was watching the free-fall of wide receiver Golden Tate. Clausen wasn’t even on my radar, but apparently he was free-falling right along with Tate.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made their pick (WR Arrelious Benn) a few slots before Carolina. Once they selected Benn, I “knew” Carolina was “Golden” for Tate.

Not to re-hash the same story, I was in total disbelief for a few hours when the Cats selected Jimmy Clausen. In hindsight, things are working out pretty well so far with Clausen. He hasn’t drawn any negative attention to himself so far, and he hasn’t broken into any Krispy Kreme locations, unlike Golden Tate.

It seems to me, that the Panthers did quite well for themselves, getting not one, but two quarterbacks in the draft. One who is highly-regarded in some circles — not the media’s — and one who shows  a lot of upside, Cincinnati’s  Tony Pike.

The big “surprise” at this point (to some), is the seemingly mysterious depth chart climb of Hunter Cantwell, during the team’s break between OTA’s and training camp. Well, it makes sense. Cantwell is a veteran of one year over the two rooks. So it stands to reason, the unexplainable (to some) climb up the depth chart.

It’s been more of a media craze that has anointed Jimmy Clausen the backup to Matt Moore right off the bat, and is projected by some to take over the starting quarterback position by Week Five.

I suppose if one guy can climb the depth chart when no one’s looking, then another guy can have someone else’s job for no reason by a certain time of the regular season.

The media is already setting us up for Moore’s failure, which I find rather disgusting, but negative publicity is what the media thrives on. That’s what sells stories.

I don’t see Moore going down that easily. I see John Fox allowing Moore every opportunity to succeed, and because of his age, the fact his confidence hasn’t been shaken, and because he’s a different athlete than Delhomme was, Moore will have success in 2010. Barring injury, I don’t see this guy losing his job as the starting quarterback. I also don’t see him having a meltdown of Jake Delhomme proportions. Two totally different quarterbacks in more ways than one or two.

Once again, we’re at a position where there is really more than one player to watch. In this case, I’d have to say watch them all as closely as you can. With Moore, we want to see how he develops as a leader on the offense. He has to. He’s the field general.

Jimmy Clausen’s battle for the No. Two job against incumbent Hunter Cantwell will also be fascinating to watch. Cantwell has a big arm that the organization loves, which is going against the most NFL-ready quarterback of this year’s draft in Clausen.

Tony Pike is also a particularly interesting character to keep tabs on. He’s already had comparisons made that he’s a Tom Brady type. But with his injury history in college and a weaker arm, he should be trying to make the biggest waves out of the two — maybe three quarterbacks ahead of him. I wonder what Terry Bradshaw thinks of Pike’s throwing motion?

Tomorrow we will preview the defensive ends. TGIF everyone!

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Tags: 2010 NFL Draft 2010 Training Camp Arrelious Benn Carolina Panthers Donovan McNabb Golden Tate Hunter Cantwell Jake Delhomme Jeff Garcia Jimmy Clausen John Fox Marc Bulger Marty Hurney Matt Moore NFL Preview Tampa Bay Buccaneers Terry Bradshaw Tony Pike

  • John

    It will be interesting to see how many QBs we carry. I don’t think we’ll get away with stashing either Cantwell or Pike on the practice squad. Both would be worth a flyer to claim.

    I agree the big fight is for number 2 right now. And it’s Cantwell vs Clausen. I think everyone agrees Pike is at least one season away. Missing time because of the stupid rule about when the school finishes it academic year hurt him a bit as well. Whoever loses the fight for number 2 will be the third on the depth chart IMO leaving Pike the odd man out unless we carry 4.

    I also agree on Moore. Predictions of his replacement are way early and seem to be based in nothing other than selling papers. It would take a big injury or a massive meltdown to move him down the chart vs. one of three QBs who have never played in a real NFL game. I just don’t think Fox would go there unless his hand was forced by something very dramatic and unavoidable.

    • Eric Quackenbush

      Injury or a massive meltdown of 16+ INT’s with multiple losses are the only two things I could see being cause for benching Moore. The latter I don’t see happening. The former, well, let’s just hope the o-line stays healthy so Moore can stay healthy.

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  • atepesm

    The stress of the media focus on the QB battle will be interesting to watch. Typically, the media undermines a coaches ability to make a clear decision. Hopefully that will NOT be an issue.

    I will add this. In 40 years of season tickets to ND football, I have never seen a more accurate QB than Jimmy Clausen, (Bradshaw be damned). Clausen, in college, threw passes that were so on the money, your jaw drops. And not just once in a while, but 2-3 times per game. His accuracy at the college level, was not a fluke.

    Now, that’s no proof he’ll do it in the big leagues, but lets just say I’d be really surprised if he didn’t win the #2 spot.

    Hopefully, the media isn’t too much of a nuisance through this process. I’d really like to see Carolina become a dominant force in the NFC.

  • J. Gore

    Nice article Eric. Moore is the clear cut #1 hands down. I remember when we signed him off of waivers. Dallas hated to lose him, but they had no option as they were putting their eggs in the Romo basket. Matt has a pretty strong arm himself. If I remember correctly Matt had the option of going pro in baseball as a pitcher. The guy consistantly throws 90mph + fastballs which translates into around 60mph + with a football. That’s Bret Favre #’s. Ask Sterling Sharpe and Donald Driver’s fingers. Plus being able to hit a strike zone is alot tougher than hitting a WR’s catch zone, barring a 300lb D-lineman in your face. Needless to say I think Moore’s gonna be just fine as long as the offensive line will continue to block for him. It’s gonna be a while before we get to see Clausen, Cantwell, or Pike taking snaps with the first string. I think we’ll keep all four on the roster for at least this year, considering the recent hype over Cantwell. But there’s been no climb up the depth chart for him. He’s been the #2 guy ever since Jake was cut and Feely not resigned. And it’s not a matter of will Clausen surpass him on the depth chart but which preseason game will he do it in. Clausen is the 2nd round pick and will be the heir apparent until he gives a reason not to be. Alot of the hype was most likely spun to get Jimmy and his agent to say hmmm…… we better get a deal done and get into camp. Both Clausen and Pike have a nice TD to Int rate over their last two seasons in college. Lets hope it does transfer. Alot has been said about Cantwells arm strength but I put together a list for you. JaMarcus Russel, Jay Cutler, Carson Palmer, Byron Leftwich, Dante Culpepper, Ryan Leaf, Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, Drew Bledsoe, Randall Cunningham, Warren Moon, Boomer Esiason, Dan Marino, John Elway, Brett Favre. These are a few of the cannon arm QB’s that have played in the league the last two decades. I’ll break while you count their Super Bowl rings.

    • Eric Quackenbush

      Solid points, J. I believe among the 15 QB’s you listed, only two of them have a ring/s.

  • J. Gore

    Yes I overlooked a few like Rich Gannon, Jeff George, Jim Kelly, and even our own Kerry Collins. But the fact of the matter is time and time again it’s been proven that accuracy wins out over sheer power. That’s why Joe Montanna, Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady, Troy Aikman, Steve Young (maybe a hybrid), Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, Kurt Warner, Phil Simms, Jim McMahon, Eli and Peyton Manning have rings today. They all put the ball into the playmakers hands. That’s what we gotta hope that at least one of our four guys have Observer. GO PANTHERS!!

    • John

      Well I take some exception to your examples and would note, despite a lack of rings, many of those you listed in your first response are considered all time greats. Rings aren’t the only measure of a career. Some of those guys are HOF. Marino held every record worth holding and won many conference titles along the way. Favre, who has a ring, is a shoe in for the hall and has the numbers to back it up. Further Elway and Marino also are in the top 10 for lowest interception percentage. You are drawing a specious conclusion. Many of those guys didn’t win Super Bowls for reasons that had nothing to do with their accuracy or arm strength. And then some of those guys are just epic failures.

      And then on your second list since when does Kurt Warner not have a big arm? Did you ever see Bradshaw play? He had a heck of an arm. Then we have to define arm strength a little bit as well. People knock Bradys arm but I have seen him throw accurately 70 yds outdoors. You don’t do that with a weak arm. I just find both of these lists suspect to making your point of Cantwell vs Clausen.

      And it should be noted that although the papers/talking heads tend to focus on the arm when you talk to the Panthers they also talk about his football smarts, his work ethic and his desire to continually improve. Those are intangibles that Clausen will also have to beat him on. Further we have no idea what accuracy is like for either of these guys at the pro level and I think we need to see it live before we decide Clausen is winning that battle.

      So all in all I don’t think anything is a given for Clausen. He was a highish draft pick and that’s really his only advantage before it gets real. But this team doesn’t seem to worried about that stat when it comes to it’s QBs.

  • J. Gore

    You’re right John some of those guys I named had it all, and some failed to get the job done for lack of talent around them. I’m just tired of everyone backing a guy based on one workout that Ben Rothlisburger happened to see. (Not saying that you or the coaching staff are in that category.) I’m just saying that I don’t think Cantwell will remain the #2 guy for very long. (just my opinion) I was also making the point that a certain newspaper and possibly the coaching staff were throwing Cantwells name around to help aid in their contract negotiations. As if to say it’s ok if you don’t want to sign right a way Jimmy. Go ahead and hold out, we’ve got guys here that can do the job.

    • John

      Don’t get me wrong I said the same thing about Cantwell getting some media play. I think at least part of that was a message to Clausen.

      Now my observations on Cantwells ability and the Panther like for him come from some folks I know over at Panther central and the things I have read about he work he has put in. It seems the Panthers are high on him even when not talking to reporters. In fact there was some scuttlebutt that if Jake hadn’t melted down Cantwell was highly regarded enough he would have been fighting with Moore for the second spot this season, for whatever such rumors are worth.