Jimmy Clausen

Jimmy Clausen may not have been as bad as you think

I strongly believe that Jimmy Clausen deserves more time to prove himself in Carolina. The fact that his rookie year stats compare favorably to John Elway should be proof of that. You simply can’t draw conclusions based on a player’s first year.

But not only was Clausen struggling because he’s a rookie, but he was a rookie on a terrible football team. It just isn’t fair to jump to conclusions based on his performance in 10 starts in that environment.

Some great research by J.J. Cooper of AOL Fanhouse sheds some light on just how much Clausen was suffering from the play around him.

Cooper looked at each sack in the NFL this past season and timed how long the quarterback held onto the football. The average sack occurred at 2.7 seconds, so he classified any sack which came after the three-second mark as being on the quarterback rather than the offensive line. Read more

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Panthers Comments Off

Panthers GM giving up on Clausen?

Marty Hurney, the guy who drafted Jimmy Clausen 48th overall in the 2010 draft, is apparently already declaring him a bust.

Despite being just one year removed from spending the team’s first pick in the draft on Clausen, Hurney stated that quarterback is the team’s “No. 1 need” this offseason.

This admission gives some credibility to a theory I tossed out there following the Panthers selection of Clausen. After every team with the exception of the Panthers and Bears passed on Clausen, I wondered if his character concerns were even greater than anyone in the media imagined. Clearly he has NFL talent, so there had to be some reason why no one took him in the first 47 picks.

Additionally, the Panthers likely had no reason to believe that he would be available with the 48th pick. As a result, perhaps they didn’t do enough homework on his mental makeup. When suddenly he was available, they jumped at the chance to fill their need at quarterback. Hurney thought he got the steal of the draft, without stopping to question why Clausen was still on the board.

As I said, it’s just a theory, but it’s something to think about – especially after the reports that he apparently struggled to fit into the locker room in Carolina.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Panthers 2 Comments

2 really good reasons not to give up on Jimmy Clausen

It’s been a strange year for Jimmy Clausen. After sliding all the way to the second round of the draft he finally winds up in Carolina. And now just a few months later Clausen may be preparing for his final start as a Panther.

With their loss on Thursday and wins by the Bengals and Broncos, the Panthers clinched the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Assuming Andrew Luck enters the draft – which I believe is a foregone conclusion – the Panthers will make him the top selection.

But is it too early to give up on Clausen?

His performance this season has been nothing short of horrendous, but what can you really learn from a poor performance as a rookie? If history tells us anything, the answer is nothing.

Success as a rookie is certainly meaningful. The rookie record for passer rating is held by Ben Roethlisberger, followed by Dan Marino, Y.A. Tittle and Matt Ryan.

But the opposite end of the scale gives us two really good reasons why it’s two early to give up on Clausen, and their names are John Elway and Troy Aikman. Can you imagine how different the NFL would look if the Broncos and Cowboys had given up on them after one season?

In 1983 the Broncos finished 9-7, but it was in spite of Elway, not because of him. What if they had thrown in the towel and selected Boomer Esiason in the 1984 draft?

In 1989 the Cowboys finished 1-15. What if they had given up on Aikman and drafted Jeff George or Andre Ware the following season?

I’m not saying that drafting Luck is the wrong decision for the Panthers. I think he is the best quarterback to enter the draft in years – at least since Peyton Manning if not longer. No matter who your current quarterback is, you can’t go wrong by taking a player with Luck’s talent.

So while Carolina heads in a new direction, other teams around the league should jump at the chance to land Clausen at a cheap price (he could probably be had for a 3rd or 4th round pick). He has the skills to be an elite quarterback in this league and there’s no reason to be scared away based on a few rough games as a rookie.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft Comments Off

Could the Panthers give up on Clausen after one year?

Thanks to the Bills win over the Bengals on Sunday, the Panthers are now in sole possession of the worst record in the league.

Let’s assume they finish in that position. What direction will the go with the 1st-overall selection?

The answer to that question depends on who is calling the shots in Carolina. Head coach John Fox’s contract expires at the end of the year and it’s unlikely he’ll be invited back, and GM Marty Hurney is on the hot seat as well.

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 14: Quarterback Jimmy Clausen  of the Carolina Panthers looks to hand the ball off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on November 14, 2010 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

The Jimmy Clausen era may be a short one in Carolina.

So while it’s too early give a definitive answer, it’s not hard to speculate that Clausen’s tenure as the starter could be short lived. Remember, 30 of the 32 NFL teams passed on Clausen – some more than once – in last year’s draft. So whoever the Panthers hire likely had the opportunity to select Clausen, but chose to go in a different direction.

But, regardless of who is in Carolina’s front office, Andrew Luck may actually hold the keys to Clausen’s future.

Given the choice between Clausen and Jake Locker or Cam Newton, it may be safer to stick with Clausen (and his significantly smaller contract) and address another area of need with the 1st pick. But if Luck is on the board, it will be hard to make that choice.

Andrew Luck will be the best quarterback to enter the draft since I started this website in 2004. And those with more experience than me say that he may be the best since Peyton Manning.

So while it’s hard to justify giving up on Clausen after just one season, Luck may simply be too talented to pass over.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Panthers 1 Comment

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 ProFootballFocus.com, 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

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 ProFootballFocus.com: 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 ProFootballFocus.com – 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

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.

OFFENSE
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.

DEFENSE
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