What’s wrong with Jimmy Clausen?

Remember when Jimmy Clausen was supposed to be the most NFL-ready quarterback prospect in the draft?

It’s far to early to call him a bust, but his biggest flaw in college is coming back to haunt him in the NFL. In my scouting report on Clausen last spring I wrote

Will dance in the pocket and rush his throws when consistently pressured; makes too many mistakes due to losing his mechanics in these situations.

At Notre Dame, this was rarely an issue. They had a decent offensive line and he was able to overcome this deficiency due to his elite talent in other situations. In the NFL, where quarterbacks are pressured on a consistent basis, this problem has become magnified.

According to, Clausen has been “pressured” on 40 of his 126 dropbacks this season. 11 of those 40 pressures have resulted in sacks. Now the offensive line is undoubtedly to blame for some of those sacks, but it’s also unfair to place all the blame Jordan Gross and company.

To get a better appreciation for Clausen’s struggles, compare him to the rest of the league. Among quarterbacks with at least 25 dropbacks under pressure, only Jon Kitna and Matt Hasselbeck have a higher percentage resulting in sacks.

That’s not exactly the company you want to keep in a statistic like this. Hasselbeck is 35 and Kitna is 38. Their excuse is a lack of mobility. The 23-year-old Clausen should be expected to avoid sacks more easily, even as a rookie.

But Clausen’s struggles aren’t limited to sacks. When Clausen does get rid of the football – which he’s done 27 times – he completes just 33.3 percent of his passes. That’s significantly lower than Hasselbeck (49.0 pct) and Kitna (68.4 pct).

So how do the Panthers fix this?

It’s simple: practice. There is nothing wrong with Clausen. His mechanics are fine and he has plenty of arm strength and mobility. There’s no reason why he can’t grow out of this phase. However, he clearly has more work to do than most scouts and draftniks anticipated.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Panthers Comments Off

32 reasons why no one in the NFL should want Moss

Cardinals – Need a lot more than one aging receiver to fix their quarterback situation.

Falcons – Why mess up a good thing between Matt Ryan and Roddy White?

Ravens – No room with Boldin, Mason and Housh. Moss would pout, ruin chemistry.

Bills – Ryan Fitzpatrick has been pleasantly surprising. Don’t mess with a good thing.

Panthers – Think Moss will be a good soldier on a team competing for the No. 1 pick?

Bears – Lovie and Martz have their hands full already with Jay Cutler in the locker room.

Bengals – T.O.  and Moss in the same locker room? No thanks.

Browns – If Mangini can’t get along with Braylon Edwards, how would Moss fit in?

Cowboys – The last thing they need is another distraction.

Broncos – Do you really think McDaniels will get along with Moss better than Marshall?

Lions – Can you picture Moss accepting role as a No. 2 receiver on a 2-5 team?

Packers – Chemistry on offense seems to be great. Don’t mess it up.

Texans – See above.

Colts – Manning prefers his no-name receivers. And it works just fine for him.

Jaguars – Last place Jags aren’t going anywhere. Don’t waste the money.

Chiefs – Already hold a big lead in a weak division. Why mess with what’s working?

Dolphins – Marshall and Moss is too much ego for any coaching staff to handle.

Vikings – Been there. Done that.

Patriots – Been there. Done that.

Saints – Brees seems to be doing o.k. for himself without an elite receiver.

Giants – Can you picture Moss backing up Nicks and Smith?

Jets – I think they’ve learned their lesson with Braylon Edwards.

Raiders – Been there. Done that.

Eagles – Been there. Done that.

Steelers – After trading Holmes, adding Moss would be a step backwards.

Chargers – Vincent Jackson is back.

49ers – Can you picture Moss being happy in last place in the worst division?

Seahawks – The last thing Mike Williams needs right now is a bad influence.

Rams – Last thing this young, overachieving team needs is a bad influence like Moss.

Bucs – See above.

Titans – Kenny Britt has enough issues to overcome without Moss influencing him.

Redskins – McNabb and T.O. didn’t work. Why would it work with Moss?

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Bears, Bengals, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, Cowboys, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons, Giants, Jaguars, Jets, Lions, Packers, Panthers, Patriots, Raiders, Rams, Ravens, Redskins, Saints, Seahawks, Steelers, Texans, Titans, Vikings 1 Comment

Clausen benching says more about John Fox than Clausen

Let’s slow down with the criticisms of Jimmy Clausen.

He has not looked good, there’s no denying that. One touchdown and three interceptions through four starts is not going to get the job done. But since when do we judge a player’s career after four games?

Clausen’s demotion says more about John Fox and his insecure job situation than it does about Clausen himself. Fox is a lame duck, just riding out the remainder of his contract. The odds of him being rehired are slim and he knows it.

Like a player who steps up in a contract year, Fox is looking out for himself in this situation. If he keeps Clausen at the helm, it will likely result in 13+ losses this season. Clausen would progress as the season goes on, and it may be a great learning opportunity, but the 3-13 record (or worse) would still end up on Fox’s résumé.

Starting Matt Moore won’t turn the Panthers into playoff contenders, but it will make them more competitive. Remember, they were ready to hand the franchise over to him – at least in the short term – until Clausen fell into their lap in the 2nd round.

So before you go mocking Jimmy Clausen and everyone who called him “NFL ready” remember, this move says nothing about him or about the faith the coaching staff has in his abilities. This is a selfish move by John Fox who is more focused on his own résumé than the best interests of his soon-to-be former franchise.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Panthers Comments Off

10 observations from Week 2 in the NFL

1. Mike Martz is Jay Cutler’s savior. Through two weeks he has looked like the best quarterback in the league. If you’re not buying into the hype, consider this stat from when Cutler was blitzed on Sunday, he completed 17 of 24 pass attempts for 198 yards and three touchdowns. That’s efficiency that you will rarely see against one of the more talented defenses in the league.

2. What’s up with all these quarterbacks being benched? If you’re sitting a guy midway through the second game of the season maybe you shouldn’t have started him in the first place. If your team has already made a quarterback switch before fall is officially here, you have every reason to panic.

3. At this rate, I don’t see how Eric Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will survive the season in Cleveland. In each of their first two games the Browns offense has come out of the gate with reasonable success, only to be completely shut down in the 2nd half. It’s as if the Browns just go to the locker room and hang out at halftime while the other team adjusts.

4. Another issue with the Browns offense… how can you not get the ball in the hands of your playmakers? They had Jerome Harrison, Josh Cribbs and Seneca Wallace on the field at the same time for most of the game, and yet they failed to even fake any trick plays. They could have created some nightmare matches for the Chiefs defense with just a little creativity.

5. Derek Anderson did not look good on Sunday, but his offensive line didn’t do him any favors. The Cardinals offensive line allowed two sacks, six hits and 18 pressures! And they only dropped back to pass 33 times! And please, for the sake of Kurt Warner, don’t think that this offensive line got worse since last year. Warner was simply brilliant at avoiding pressure and getting rid of the football.

6. I’m excited to see Jimmy Clausen’s debut on Sunday, but I’m afraid it won’t be pretty. He faces two tough secondaries in each of his first two games – vs Cincinnati, at New Orleans. The Panthers might as well wave the white flag. They’re locked in a battle with the Browns and Bills for the No. 1 pick.

7. The Vikings have every reason to panic. They should add one in the win column this weekend against the Lions, but after that it’s at the Jets, home against the Cowboys, then at Green Bay and at New England. They could lose all four of those games. And they will if Brett Favre doesn’t stop playing like Sage Rosenfels. The Vikings could have gotten this performance for a lot less money if he had stayed retired.

8. The Steelers may be emerging as a favorite in the AFC. They’re 2-0 (two good wins, mind you) while essentially playing without a quarterback. As soon as Roethlisberger returns, this team will be very, very hard to beat.

9. Green Bay’s defense looked absolutely dominant on Sunday (with plenty of help from Trent Edwards). But here’s a fun stat for you courtesy of – the Bills didn’t target Charles Woodson once the entire game. Not a single pass thrown his direction. Now that’s respect.

10. And I’ll conclude with this… I hope someone in the NFL public relations department is paying close attention to the amount of media coverage being given today to Braylon Edwards and Kenny McKinley. The fact that most media outlets are spending more time talking about Edwards’ DWI and how the Jets will react, than to McKinley’s death is sad.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Browns, Cardinals, Packers, Panthers, Steelers, Vikings Comments Off

NFL players on the trade market: where might they land?

BOURBONNAIS, IL - JULY 30: Greg Olsen  of the Chicago Bears runs past Zack Bowman  after catching a pass during a summer training camp practice at Olivet Nazarene University on July 30, 2010 in Bourbonnais, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Olsen may be done in Chicago

Greg Olsen
Mike Martz tried to embrace Olsen, essentially a wide receiver in a tight end’s body, but Martz just doesn’t have use for those guys in his system. As a result, he’s reportedly on the trade market. Here are a few teams that could use his services:
1. Panthers – Jeff King is an adequate starter, but offers very little as a receiver. Matt More would welcome the addition of another weapon in the passing game.
2. Chiefs – Leonard Pope and Tony Moeaki have battled for the starting job. Pope has been a disappointment throughout his career. Moeaki, a rookie, has plenty of upside but also has a long injury history. Olsen would provide some stability at the position.
3. Bills – With Shawn Nelson suspended four games, the Bills don’t really have any options at tight end for a quarter of their season. Olsen would provide some immediate help and potentially push Nelson for the starting job once he returns.

Vincent Jackson
1. Rams – This could be a golden opportunity for the Rams to add a true No. 1 receiver for Sam Bradford to work with. He would immediately improve one of the worst receiving corps in the league.
2. Browns – Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was unable to get his passing game to do much of anything last year – in part due to inept quarerbacks, in part due to inept receivers. Jackson would immediately become the best receiver in the AFC North and upgrade what might be the league’s worst passing offense.
3. Seahawks – Pete Carroll and staff are building the Seahawks in an effort to win immediately and the addition of Jackson would be an obvious step in that direction. However, they already have a decent amount of money wrapped up in the position (Branch, Houshmandzadeh).

Matt Leinart
We devoted a full post to Leinart’s possible destinations. Check it out here.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Bills, Browns, Cardinals, Chargers, Chiefs, Panthers, Rams, Seahawks Comments Off

Training Camp Preview: Panthers

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 20:  Quarterback Brett Favre #4 of the Minnesota Vikings is pressured by Everette Brown #91 of the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on December 20, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Can Everrete Brown fill Peppers' shoes?

Biggest Question Mark: Everette Brown
With Julius Peppers out of the picture, Brown needs to step up in his second year in the pros. The 2009 2nd -round pick had just 2.5 sacks in 15 games as a rookie, a number that needs to improve this season. He’ll be expected to step into the starting lineup and live up to expectations immediately.

Position Battle to Watch: Quarterback
With Jake Delhomme out of the picture the Panthers were ready to hand the job over to Jake Delhomme. And then Jimmy Clausen landed in their lap in the 2nd round. The selection of Clausen has to shake Moore’s confidence, whether he’s willing to admit it or not. Clausen has far more talent, but can he pick up the pro game fast enough to win the job as a rookie?

Impact Rookie: Brandon LaFell
Clausen certainly could earn this distinction if he wins the staring job, but LaFell will be relied on regardless of who wins the quarterback battle. With Muhsin Muhammad gone, Steve Smith injured and Dwayne Jarrett struggling to make an impact, LaFell will have the opportunity to step into a significant role very early in his career.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Panthers Comments Off

Early NFL Rookie of the Year Predictions

It may only be May, but it’s never too early to look ahead. By glancing through some projected depth charts we’ve come up with an early rookie of the year prediction. We’ll track each player’s progress and update our rankings on a weekly basis throughout the season.

1. Ryan Mathews, Chargers

Offensive Rookie of the Year typically goes to a running back, and often to a player on a good team. Mathews may not be the most talented of this year’s rookies, but he is in the best position to succeed. He’s the feature back in San Diego and should cruise to 1,200 yards and 10+ touchdowns.

2. Ben Tate, Texans
Tate will have to beat out Steve Slaton for the starting job, but he certainly will enter training camp with an excellent shot to be the Texans’ feature back. Unlike Slaton, Tate has the size to carry the load and put up impressive numbers throughout the year.

3. Golden Tate, Seahawks
Tate will likely be used as an all-purpose receiver in Seattle much like Percy Harvin was used in Minnesota last year. He isn’t their No. 1 target, but they’ll find ways to get him the ball.

4. C.J. Spiller, Bills
While Spiller was the top-rated running back on most draft boards, he didn’t land in a great situation in terms of finding immediate playing time. Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson still deserve to get their fair share of the carries (assuming they’re still around) which will limit Spillers ability to put up ROY-type numbers.

5. Jimmy Clausen, Panthers
If Clausen beats out Matt Moore he’ll be in an excellent position to succeed as a rookie. Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams will carry the load on offense, limiting the amount of work Clausen needs to do.

1. Eric Berry, Chiefs
The Chiefs defense won’t be very good, meaning plenty of chances for Berry to show off his skills. He’ll clearly stand out as the best player in their secondary from day one, and should be the DROY favorite.

2. Derrick Morgan, Titans
Morgan will start from day one on an already respectable defense in Tennessee. He’s surrounded with enough talent that should allow him to rack up 7+ sacks this year.

3. Earl Thomas, Seahawks
Thomas will start immediately for the Seahawks and should be an instant-impact player. He’s a ball hawk, which means he should have no problem putting up the gaudy interception numbers that will catch the eye of ROY voters.

4. Brandon Graham, Eagles
Graham likely won’t start in Philadelphia, but he’ll be used as a situational pass rusher. He’s one dimensional, but he’ll put up the numbers necessary to get noticed as a rookie.

5. Sean Weatherspoon, Falcons
Weatherspoon is one of the few defensive rookies who has been handed a starting job. He likely won’t put up the numbers to in the award, but he’ll be in the discussion simply based on having the most opportunities to show off his talents.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bills, Chargers, Chiefs, Eagles, Falcons, Panthers, Seahawks, Texans, Titans 2 Comments

2010 Draft Grades: Panthers

Considering they didn’t own a 1st-round pick, you simply couldn’t have asked for anything more from the Panthers in this draft.

Jimmy Clausen is a a top-10 talent. There’s simply no denying that fact. However, there are concerns about his mental makeup. And apparently NFL teams were even more concerned about that aspect of his game than many anticipated. Despite those concerns, he was absolutely worth a gamble in the 2nd round. Perhaps his draft-day fall will serve as a wake-up call and motivate him to live up to his potential.

While I love the pick of Clausen, I will say this: I hope they didn’t take him just because they didn’t know any better. 30 other teams passed over Clausen, and some (even some that desperately needed a quarterback) did so more than once. That makes you wonder just how bad he was during the interview process. Unfortunately the Panthers probably never did their homework on him they way they would have if they owned a top-10 pick. It seemed highly unlikely that he would fall to No. 48 entering the draft, meaning they likely never considered the possibility that they would have the opportunity to draft him.

I love the selection of Brandon LaFell in the 3rd round. He had a disappointing senior year, but I believe he has 1st-round talent. He may not have the speed to be a truly elite N0. 1 receiver, but he can become an excellent possession receiver in the mold of Hines Ward. He had great value in the 3rd round.

As much as I like the selections of LaFell and Clausen, I hate the selection of Armanti Edwards. He was a huge reach in the 3rd round and to make matters worse, they gave up next year’s 2nd-round pick to get him. With guys like Taylor Price and Mardy Gilyard still on the board, it just wasn’t a smart selection.

I was very surprised that Eric Norwood fell the 4th round and I think he’s a great fit in Carolina. He may take some time to develop, since he primarily played defensive end in college, but he could develop into a starter. Strong-side linebacker is a position of weakness for the Panthers, so if he comes along quickly he could see playing time sooner rather than later.

Greg Hardy is a tough player to judge, but he’s worth the risk in the 6th round. When healthy, he’s looked like a 1st-round talent. He’s an elite pass rusher who can impact the game immediately if he can stay on the field. Unfortunately, he just can’t stay healthy.

David Gettis is a big, athletic receiver who has a ton of upside. He’ll need some time to develop, but he’s a nice developmental prospect. He has the potential to emerge as the best receiver of the Panthers three draft picks, but he’s the least likely to make an immediate impact.

Jordan Pugh will add depth to the Panthers secondary and likely contribute on special teams. He’s played both cornerback and safety in his career, but will likely play safety in the NFL.

The Panthers obviously didn’t need to take another quarterback, but in the 6th round Tony Pike was too good to pass up. Its a great situation for Pike, who really needs to sit for two or three years to bulk up and develop as a quarterback. He has the tools to potentially start someday, but he’s a few years away from entering into a real quarterback competition.

R.J. Stanford and Robert McClain will both add to the Panthers depth at cornerback. Neither has a ton of upside, but the Panthers needed to improve their depth. They’re both safe 7th round picks who have a good chance to make the roster.

The Panthers took a lot of chances in this draft, but I think they picked their spots perfectly. They landed three players with 1st-round talent (Clausen, LaFell and Hardy), each of whom fell in the draft for various reasons. Just based on the odds of success in the NFL, at least one of them will likely be a complete bust, but they were all well worth the pick the Panthers spent to acquire them. When we look at the Panthers roster three years from now, I expect to see three starters from this draft class and that’s all you can ask for – especially considering they didn’t use a 1st-round pick.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2010, Panthers 1 Comment

Where will Julius Peppers play in 2010?

The Panthers have decided not to place the franchise tag on Julius Peppers, which likely means his time in Carolina is over.

Its an interesting decision for the Panthers. As a team they totaled just 31 sacks this past season, 10.5 of which came from Peppers. In an era where teams are paying big money for elite pass rushers such as Peppers and Jared Allen, it makes you wonder what they think of Peppers off the field. Rumors have swirled that his work ethic and desire to succeed are lacking, and this decision certainly gives teams reason to look further into those claims.

So with that in mind, where could Peppers land this offseason. Here are the top five most likely destinations:

Carolina Panthers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers5. Jaguars
The Jaguars have to make a tough decision this offseason regarding 2008 1st and 2nd round picks Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves. Both struggled immensely this past season and the Jags ranked dead last in the NFL with just 14 sacks. Popular opinion right now is that the Jaguars will target a defensive end in the draft, but adding a veteran like Peppers would be a much safer route to take.

4. Falcons
The Falcons may hesitate to add another aging lineman to pair with John Abraham, but their pass rush is in need of an upgrade. 2007 1st-round pick Jamaal Anderson has struggled to live up to expectations and the Falcons may be ready to move on. If the Falcons want to make a splash this offseason, stealing Peppers from a division rival would certainly be one way to make that happen.

3. Packers
If Peppers is prepared to make the transition to outside linebacker, Green Bay would be an ideal landing place. They’re likely parting ways with Aaron Kampman who struggled to transition from down-lineman to outside lineback in Dom Capers new 3-4 defense. Pepers may also have size to play defensive end in a 3-4 defense, but that would really be a waste of his pass-rush ability.

2. Patriots
The Patriots reportedly have a strong interest in Peppers. They desperately need to upgrade their pass rush, so the interest makes sense. However, I’m not sure he’s a great fit. Peppers appears to be a little oversized to stand up and play outside linebacker in the Patriots 3-4 scheme. I’m not sure he’s athletic enough to handle the coverage responsibilities that come with playing linebacker which he hasn’t encountered in Carolina.

1. Bears
This looks like the perfect match for both sides. The Bears have a veteran defense and they’re clearly taking a “win now” approach over the past few offseasons. Adewale Ogunleye is an unrestricted free agent and the Bears should jump at the chance replace him with Peppers.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Bears, Falcons, Free Agency, Jaguars, Packers, Panthers, Patriots 1 Comment

Franchise Tags Start Today

Starting today teams can place franchise tags on players up until February 25. Any player receiving the franchise tag must be paid the average of the five highest-paid players at his position, or 120% of the player’s previous year’s salary (whichever is greater). Any player given the franchise tag may not negotiate with any other team.

As an alternative to the franchise tag, teams may use a transition tag. The transition tag carries the value of the average of the top 10 salaries at his position, but it allows the player to negotiate with other teams. If a transition player agrees to a contract with another team his original team has the right match he offer.

Given the incredibly small pool of unrestricted free agents due to the lack of a renewal of the collective bargaining agreement, there likely won’t be many franchise tags handed out. But here’s a few of our best guesses as to who may receive the tag:

2010franchisetagsJulius Peppers, Panthers – Peppers is already among the highest paid at his position, so the 120% increase applies in his situation. He would earn somewhere in the range $20 next season if the Panthers placed the franchise tag on him. A possible scenario would be for the Panthers to place the tag on Peppers and then trade him to a team where Peppers would then sign a long-term deal.

Vince Wilfork, Patriots - Wilfork won’t be happy if the Patriots place the franchise tag on him, but it may be coming anyway. Their defense took a significant step backwards this past season, and losing Wilfork would set them back even further. If they do place the tag on Wilfork, don’t be shocked if it sparks a lengthy holdout.

Karlos Dansby, Cardinals – The Cards have placed the franchise tag on Dansby for two straight years and would owe him roughly $12M should they place the tag on him again. Its a large figure, but the state of the Cardinals defense may necessitate the spending.

Casey Hampton, Steelers – Hampton is the unheralded anchor of the Steelers defense and they’re not about to let him get away. They’d love to negotiate a long-term deal, but they’ll hand him the franchise tag if necessary.

Aubrayo Franklin, 49ers – Franklin was one of the biggest breakout stars of the past two seasons, emerging as a dominant nose tackle in the 49ers 3-4 defense. He is a key reason for the success of inside linebackers Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes and the Niners cannot let him get away. He’s got a lot of money coming his way one way or another this offseason.

Ryan Pickett, Packers – Pickett had a very solid season at nose tackle in the Packers new 3-4 defense. The decision to franchise Pickett may hinge on whether or not they see 2009 1st-round pick B.J. Raji as a defensive end or nose tackle. If Raji can take over, it would make Pickett expendable.

Gary Brackett, Colts – While Dwight Freeney gets all the attention in Indy, Brackett is arguably the true leader of the Colts defense. President Bill Polian has stated that re-signing Brackett is a priority. That may mean placing the franchise tag on him, and then negotiating a long-term deal if Brackett feels inclined to do so.

Richard Seymour, Raiders – It would be difficult to imagine Seymour re-signing with the Raiders willingly, so if they want him back the franchise tag may be their only option. Seymour could also be a prime candidate to be tagged and then traded.

Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders - In all likelihood Janikowski will re-sign for a long-term deal. But if they can’t come to an agreement, Al Davis isn’t about to let one of the game’s best kickers just walk away.

Shayne Graham, Bengals – The Bengals placed the franchise tag on Graham a year ago and may decide to do so again.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 49ers, Cardinals, Colts, Packers, Panthers, Patriots, Raiders, Steelers Comments Off