Monday, August 30, 2010

The "Defense/Offense" dichotomy

Certainly, it's just preseason, and all of this will be washed away as if a summer thunderstorm swept through pretty soon.

Nevertheless, as I wrote in today's column, I think the Panthers' offense is in trouble and that their defense is spectacular.

A few numbers from the Panthers' 2010 preseason -- Carolina is 1-2 entering Thursday night's preseason finale at Pittsburgh -- bear this out with some starkness:

The good...

-- The Panthers' defense ranks No.1 in the entire NFL in yards allowed per game (184.7 per game), which is 51 yards better than next-best Minnesota.

-- The Panthers are also No.1 in the NFL in sacks (18, or an average of 6 per exhibition) and in passing defense. They are No.2 in rushing defense and points allowed per game (11, trailing only Baltimore). If Carolina keeps that torrid pace up throughout the regular season, too, defensive coordinator Ron Meeks is going to be a very hot commodity in 2011 for a possible head-coaching job.

The bad...

-- The Panthers are No.32 of 32 in points per game (10). Their two TDs have been scored on a fumble return and a kickoff.

-- The Panthers' offense is on an 0-for-42 preseason streak in scoring touchdowns when starting a possession. I get into this some in my column today as well.

This shouldn't surprise us too much. Steve Smith and Jonathan Stewart have missed the whole preseason, after all. And Carolina's offense in the 2009 preseason was also very poor -- Hunter Cantwell had the only touchdown pass. That offensive offense then hurt Carolina considerably in its 0-3 start, which the Panthers never quite recovered from in 2009.

But that defense.... man. As I wrote today, I've never seen a faster-looking D in 16 years of watching the Panthers put teams on the field (and Thomas Davis, one of the team's speediest players, isn't even out there).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

3 things I liked, 2 I didn't

3 things I liked and 2 I didn’t in Carolina's 15-7 preseason win over Tennessee Saturday:

The Panthers just finished off their first preseason victory of the season, beating Tennessee 15-7 Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium. Here are the 3 things I liked most and the 2 I liked least.

What I liked most:

1. The Panthers’ pass rush. Defensive coordinator Ron Meeks has worked some magic with this group so far. After seven sacks Saturday night, the Panthers have 18 in three preseason games – and it’s all been by committee. No single Panther has more than three sacks (Greg Hardy, Everette Brown and Eric Moore are each tied for the team lead with three apiece).

2. Jason Baker’s 76-yard punt. Hey, in a 0-0 first half, you have to take entertainment where you can find it.

3. Mike Goodson’s sizzle. Not only did the second-year running back have a 91-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter which he seemed to be stopped, got everyone to relax and then burst for a TD, but he also had a 27-yard rush and an 18-yard gain on a screen. He also got dehydrated after all that and cramped up on the sideline, but he’s fine.

What I liked least:

1. Three games, zero offensive touchdowns. The Panthers seemed to knock on the door throughout the second half Saturday and still could never dent the end zone with their offense. They have two TDs this preseason -- one on defense, one on special teams.

2. Penalties. Carolina had 11 for 95 yards, which is really bad. On the most notable sequence, the Panthers got three straight false-start penalties on three different offensive linemen in the fourth quarter to turn a third-and-2 into a third-and-17. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Panthers 15, Tennessee 7 (final)

Carolina has won its first exhibition game of the preseason -- the Panthers are now 1-2 after beating Tennessee 15-7 Saturday night.

The Panther defense had another superb night and Carolina's Mike Goodson scored his team's only touchdown with a 91-yard kickoff return.

I'll have more from the locker room and my "likes and dislikes" from the game in about an hour on this blog.

Witherspoon makes 2nd pick; Carolina still leads 15-7

Although Brian Witherspoon is supposed to be a return specialist, he's had two fourth-quarter interceptions for Carolina of Tennessee quarterbacks.

Witherspoon first picked off Kerry Collins, leading to a field goal. Then he intercepted the Titans' third-stringer Rusty Smith, stopping a Titans' drive and eventually leading to John Kasay's fourth field goal attempt. However, Kasay missed that one from 25 yards out, keeping the lead at 15-7.

After Witherspoon's second pickoff, Carolina then got a 50-yard gain from Gary Barnidge on a short pass from Jimmy Clausen. Barnidge, a 247-pound tight end with underrated athletic ability, broke two tackles and then lumbered down the sideline inside the Titans' 20.

Then, on third-and-2 from the Tennessee 5, Carolina's Rob Petitti got called for holding on what would have been a first-down running play. On third-and-12 from the 15, Clausen dumped it to his safety valve for a few yards.

Kasay came on to miss the field goal, giving Tennessee the ball with slightly more than two minutes left, needing a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie it.

Kasay's 3rd FG makes it 15-7

The Panthers just extended their lead to eight points with 8:13 left in the fourth quarter with a 41-yard field goal from John Kasay.

This drive was set up by Brian Witherspoon's interception of Kerry Collins, who was throwing from his own end zone. That's about par for the course for Collins -- he has one TD and one interception in this game, and in his career he has 192 TDs and 187 interceptions.

Anyway, the Panthers had a nice chance to score their first offensive TD of the preseason, with Jimmy Clausen at the helm. But incredibly, four of the five reserve offensive linemen in there with Clausen managed to get a five-yard pre-snap penalty during the drive. Three of those came in a row, turning a third-and-2 into a third-and-17.

That short-circuited the drive but it wasn't a total loss, as Kasay knocked another one in.

Panthers lead 12-7 after Goodson's 91-yard kickoff return TD

After a little more than three quarters, this game suddenly caught fire.

A 91-yard kickoff return touchdown from Mike Goodson pushed Carolina to a 12-7 lead. That came seconds after a Kerry Collins TD pass that briefly gave Tennessee a 7-6 lead.

Carolina went for two points after Goodson's TD -- in which he seemed to be stopped at around his own 30, only to burst around the left sideline. But on a running play, Josh Vaughan was stopped about a half-yard short.

Goodson was apparently cramping on the sideline after the play and in obvious pain, laying down on his stomach as a trainer worked on him.

Tennessee's TD came courtesy of Tennessee's suddenly potent pass offense, which ran off a five-play, 83-yard drive behind former Carolina quarterback Kerry Collins.

On the TD play, Collins hit former South Carolina Gamecock tight end Jared Cook for a 35-yard touchdown. Also in the drive, he hit a 37-yarder (and took a sack from Greg Hardy as well).

There was an obvious difference in the defensive performance in that series -- the first-team defense is finally out for Carolina.

6-0 Panthers early in fourth

Carolina's John Kasay just knocked in his second field goal of the night, as the Panthers have taken a 6-0 lead early in the fourth quarter.

With the Panthers' defense still pitching a shutout, that may be enough. But Carolina really wanted a TD on that 10-play, 60-yard drive -- quarterback Matt Moore was obviously frustrated after his third-and-4 pass was deflected at the line to end it.

Panther RB Mike Goodson made a couple of extremely impressive plays on the drive -- a 27-yard run set up by perfect blocking and an 18-yard scamper on a screen.

The Panthers still haven't scored an offensive TD this preseason. But they also just recorded their sixth sack of the night (this time by rookie Greg Hardy).

3-0 Panthers in 3rd quarter

Carolina finally broke this game's scoreless tie with a 43-yard field goal by John Kasay early in the third quarter.

The Panthers still have their starters in -- Kerry Collins is now the quarterback for Tennessee. Matt Moore made a nice throw to David Gettis for one big gain during the field-goal drive and then got a 20-yard screen pass to Tyrell Sutton to move the Panthers downfield.

Carolina also has posted its fifth sack of the game -- this time of Collins. Richard Marshall pulverized Collins on a blitz (that's five for the night and 16 for the preseason so far).

0-0 at halftime -- will anyone ever score?

The Panthers and Titans have now gone two quarters -- and 14 possessions -- without a single score.

Is it too much to ask for a little offensive excitement in preseason games? So far, unfortunately, it is.

The Panthers have now played 10 quarters this preseason without scoring an offensive touchdown. Their count for the first half: six punts and then a fumble inside the Titans 20 on their final drive by Wallace Wright that ruined a march that should have produced at least three points.

It wasn't all Matt Moore's fault, but some of it was. He had an open Dwayne Jarrett in the first quarter for what would have been a 42-yard touchdown, but overthrew him.

But Moore also wasn't helped by his running game, offensive line or wide receivers. Finally, Carolina got somewhere on its last drive -- Moore had a nice throw to Dante Rosario and Brandon LaFell made a phenomenal catch -- but then Wright fumbled and everything went sour.

The Panthers' defense, on the other hand, has been spectacular. Vince Young was sacked four times in the first half (that makes 15 for Carolina so far this preseason). Defensive end Charles Johnson has been a monster, and Carolina held Tennessee star running back Chris Johnson to eight carries for 10 yards. (DeAngelo Williams didn't do much better though -- he had nine carries for 13 yards for Carolina. Jonathan Stewart and Steve Smith once again are not playing for Carolina).

11 possessions, 11 punts

The Panthers and Titans both have showcased great defense and awful offense for the first 20 minutes of their preseason game tonight.

Carolina has punted all six times it got the ball; Tennessee has punted all five times it has had possession.

On one of those punts, somebody fumbled -- and amazingly enough, it wasn't a Panther. Tennessee fumbled on Carolina punt No.5 thanks to a huge hit by Tyrell Sutton, which gave Carolina great field position at the Tennessee 45.

What came next? Another three-and-out -- two DeAngelo Williams runs for zero yards and then, on third-and-10, Matt Moore passing short to a sliding Dwayne Jarrett for four yards.

So Carolina wasted that chance. On the positive side, the Panther defense absolutely destroyed 2,000-yard Tennessee running back Chris Johnson (eight carries, 10 yards and now having a seat for the rest of the game). Charles Godfrey has made a couple of huge plays filling holes from his safety position and DE Charles Johnson has also been strong.

We're underway -- 0-0 after 1st quarter

The Panthers and Titans have both gotten off to slow offensive starts -- with the first quarter complete, it's 0-0.

The Panthers' highlight: Everette Brown wrecked Tennessee's first series with a third-down sack in which he also caused a Vince Young fumble. Tennessee recovered however.

The Panthers' lowlight: Matt Moore had a shot at hitting Dwayne Jarrett for a touchdown from the Tennessee 42 but overthrew him on a deep pattern.

Carolina has kept Tennessee star rusher Chris Johnson in check so far. The Panthers are blitzing a lot and obviously bothering Tennessee starting QB Vince Young.

On the Panthers' two drives, they had a nine-play march that stalled at Tennessee's 42 and then a three-and-out. Best special teams play so far: Jason Baker blasted a 76-yard punt to pin Tennessee back inside the 20.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Catching up with Kerry Collins

I had a very interesting phone conversation this week with Kerry Collins, the first draft pick in the Panthers' franchise history. Collins is now 37 -- his NFL career is exactly the same age as the Panthers (both entering season No.16).

I'll be writing about this interview for Saturday's newspaper and online (UPDATE: the column is posted here), as Collins and his Tennessee Titans come to Charlotte for Week 3 of the exhibition season to face Carolina. Collins, the No.2 Titans QB now behind Vince Young, will likely play in the second half. He was the Panthers' primary quarterback from 1995 through the first quarter of the 1998 season, leading Carolina to the NFC Championship game in 1996 and making the Pro Bowl.

Here are a few highlights from the upcoming interview:

-- Collins said he still spends a lot of time in North Carolina, since he owns a 1,580-acre cattle ranch in Troy, N.C. "I've got a couple of horses I mess around with there," Collins said, "but the main thing is we've got about 500 head of cattle." Collins employs four ranchers full-time at Blue Q Ranch (read why it's called that in my column).

-- Collins always had a wonderful arm (I'd say it was the strongest in Panthers history). He says at 37 he still believes he throws the ball as well as he ever did and that he's been very fortunate from an injury standpoint -- he said he has "nothing nagging" on a day-to-day basis, which is remarkable for any 16-year NFL vet.

-- Collins said his memories of his time in Charlotte are "mostly pleasant" and that he doesn't harbor any resentment toward anyone here.

I go back with Collins a long way, having first interviewed him on his USAirways flight from New York to Charlotte on Draft Day 1995. We got up and stood in the back and he started telling me about his time in Penn State and his complicated relationship with his father. I've always found him a fascinating guy, even when he was in his rebellious stage.

Kerry and I have had our ups and downs. He once ripped me in an extended interview on a local radio station -- he believed I had taken some of his remarks out of context about the Panthers' offensive problems. But when he was in New York, having resurrected himself with the New York Giants on the way to the Super Bowl, he granted me an extended interview in New Jersey (this was 10 years ago) to discuss the problems he had in Charlotte in greater depth than he ever had previously.

Bottom line: It's been a pleasure watching Collins grow up, and he really has. Panther teammates used to question his dedication because of his heavy off-field partying. Now Collins is a stable NFL veteran with a wife, a daughter in the first grade in Nashville and a hankering to write country music. He has truly matured, and I hope when he runs onto the field Saturday night he gets cheered rather than booed.

At this point in his life, he deserves that.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fox No.1 on NFL hot seat? Fox Sports thinks so

To spice up another one of those lo-o-o-ng preseason weeks, let me point out to you that just named Panthers coach John Fox No.1 on its "hot-seat" coaching list for 2010. Fox, as we all know, is going into his ninth year with the Panthers but also is in the last year of his contract. It's quite likely he will be coaching elsewhere in 2011 -- either by his choice or by the Panthers' choice.

Here's the link to the story, but if you want the short version read below. In my opinion this is a pretty good 8-coach list, although I would have inserted Dallas's Wade Phillips on there somewhere in the Top 5:

1. John Fox, Panthers. (Comment from FoxSports' Adrian Hasenmayer: "Head coaches like authority and power. Head coaches without a long contract sometimes struggle to lead and enforce their necessary juice. John Fox has that obstacle heading into 2010, as his deal lasts only through 2010 as the Panthers come off a disappointing 8-8 season. Fox has led the Panthers to just three winning records in eight years, though in all three Carolina won division titles." NOTE FROM SCOTT: Thanks to an alert reader for pointing out Hasenmayer's comment is incorrect -- the Panthers were actually a wild-card team in 2005. Makes you wonder a bit about the level of research that actually went into this list, doesn't it?)

The other 7 on the "hot seat," in order of how sizzling that seat is:

2. Tom Coughlin, N.Y. Giants
3. Eric Mangini, Cleveland
4. Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville
5. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati
6. Lovie Smith, Chicago
7. Tom Cable, Oakland
8. Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

MJ Tuesday: ESPN and Kwame

Today's "Scott Says" blog concentrates on Charlotte's most famous semi-citizen, Michael Jordan, the Charlotte Bobcats' majority owner and the subject of an absorbing sports documentary that airs on ESPN starting tonight at 8 (here's the rest of the schedule if you can't watch it then).

I reviewed the documentary in this column. The documentary is all about Jordan's one year as a minor-league baseball player and puts that year into perspective very well (despite the fact that Jordan wouldn't sit down with filmmaker Ron Shelton of "Bull Durham" fame for an on-camera interview).

One of the most interesting parts to me was the fact that the infamous "Sports Illustrated" cover story entitled "Bag It, Michael" -- written by Steve Wulf -- had an unknown subtext.

Wulf tried to write an "I take it back" article for SI several months later after seeing a vastly improved Jordan playing Double-A ball in Birmingham, but the magazine wouldn't publish it. Shelton, in fact, told me in our phone interview Friday that the resulting dispute helped lead to Wulf leaving the magazine, although this is not mentioned in the documentary. There's no doubt, however, that it led to a grudge Jordan has held against Sports Illustrated ever since.

OK, onto Kwame Brown. Jordan's most famous drafting mistake (topping even Adam Morrison), Brown was the No.1 overall pick for the Washington Wizards when Jordan was in charge of basketball ops there but turned into a bust. (MJ told me once that Brown's hands were incredibly small for a big man and that was one of his biggest problems -- Kwame simply couldn't grasp the ball well enough).

Now Jordan has signed Brown to a one-year deal for the veteran minimum of around $1.3 million.

Is this just another mistake -- something you could liken to dating your ex-wife?

I actually don't think so. Brown is cheap by NBA standards. He won't be expected to do more than fill a bit of Tyson Chandler's defense-first role with the Bobcats. I admire Jordan a little, actually, for doing this because he knows he's going to get hammered all over again for bringing back bad Kwame memories and signing Brown for Round 2.

So I'm OK with the Kwame signing given how little it costs, and I'm more than OK with Ron Shelton's baseball documentary on Jordan. Watch that one; it's an hour well-spent.

Monday, August 23, 2010

3 quick Monday thoughts

A few items as another week gets rolling:

1. I was on WBT-AM 1110 radio this morning talking about the Panthers with Al and Jim. First question out of the box: "What's gone right with the Panthers?" I was temporarily stumped.

2. I recovered, though, and started talking about the pass rush. If you like quarterback sacks above everything else, the Panthers' 0-2 preseason start has been a dream for you. There have been 22 sacks in the two games -- 11 for and 11 against. And the Panthers have 5 guys with two sacks -- all of them defensive linemen. Julius who?

3. My column for Tuesday's paper and online will review "Jordan Rides the Bus," the latest ESPN documentary in the "30 for 30" series. It debuts Tuesday at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

This one was made by Ron Shelton, the director behind such fictional sports hits "Bull Durham" and "Tin Cup." I talked to Shelton about the 52-minute film (without commercials) -- it's all about Jordan's one season in the baseball minors in Birmingham in 1994.

Interestingly, Jordan wouldn't consent to an on-camera interview for the documentary. However, he didn't try to stop the documentary from happening, either, Shelton said, and because of that tacit blessing, a lot of folks talked to Shelton for the documentary that might otherwise have not.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

4 things I didn't like; 2 I did in Panthers' loss to Jets

I’ve written a column off the Panthers’ 9-3 loss to the New York Jets that goes into some depth about how different sorts of people – i.e. optimists and pessimists – will take different things away from Carolina’s second straight preseason loss that Jets coach Rex Ryan likened to a “pillow fight" and Panthers' OT Jordan Gross said felt like a baseball game when you saw the final score.

Here are some of the things I’m taking away, though, from the Panthers’ second consecutive game without an offensive touchdown.

First, the 4 things I didn’t like the most:
1) The punt-return team. It was so bad it was comical. Armanti Edwards fumbled one ball away and misplayed another punt that turned into a turnover. Kenny Moore fumbled one away. Captain Munnerlyn fumbled one (but recovered it). All told – four fumbles, three turnovers just on the punt returns.

2) The passing game. The Panthers threw the ball 39 times and only gained 129 yards. Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen both missed some throws and both got blasted by the Jets’ frequent blitzes. After two games, Clausen has a 35.0 quarterback rating and Moore has a 34.9.

3) The blitz pickups. The Panthers have been blitzed constantly the first two weeks and seem to have little idea how to combat it. Carolina has now been sacked 11 times in two games and – without Steve Smith in there as a breakaway threat – can’t seem to make defenses pay for the risk-taking.

4) The long punt returns. Carolina has allowed one in each of its first two exhibition games.

It wasn’t all negative, though, by a long shot.

The two things I liked the most from Saturday night:

1) The pass rush. Where did all these defensive ends come from? The Panthers are getting pressure from everywhere – that makes 11 sacks in two games. Everette Brown had two in the first quarter Saturday night. “I was able to come out and set the tone,” Brown said, and he’s right.

2) The entire defense, especially the first-teamers. The Panthers gave up just seven first downs Saturday and 112 total yards (45 yards on 33 plays by the first-team defense).

If the special teams and offense didn’t self-destruct, those are “win by 14 points” kind of numbers.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Jets win 9-3; Clausen interception seals it

The Panthers have now gone two preseason games without an offensive touchdown, and they just lost to the New York Jets, 9-3, Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium.

The Panthers never really got close to scoring in this game. Jimmy Clausen did get the Panthers to the Jets' 37 at the 2-minute warning, but shortly thereafter threw a bad interception that sealed it.

Clausen played the entire second half for Carolina and mustered three points -- those coming after a turnover gave Carolina the ball at the New York 31. Matt Moore played the entire first half and got zero points for Carolina. The Panthers didn't play quarterbacks Hunter Cantwell and Tony Pike.

The Panthers wasted a superb effort from their defense, which could have theoretically shut the Jets out except for three terrible punt-return errors (two by Armanti Edwards) that led to three Jets' field goals accounting for all of New York's points.

Carolina (0-2) has one touchdown so far in two preseason games -- on a fumble return for a TD by the defense. Ouch.

9-3 Jets early in 4th after another Panther turnover

The only way the New York Jets can score in this game, apparently, is when the Panthers turn the ball over while trying to return a punt. Even then, the Jets only get a long field goal.

Since Carolina has now done that three times, however, the Jets lead 9-3.

The third punt-return error came from Kenny Moore, who caught a punt around his own 40, fell on his backside, got up, made a nice move and got whammed at midfield, causing Moore to cough it up.

The Jets moved the ball a little until the Panther reserve defense -- playing almost as well as the starters -- stopped them with help from some fine play from reserve defensive lineman Eric Moore.

So the Jets got a 49-yard field goal from Nick Folk and early in the fourth quarter it is:

New York Jets 9, Carolina 3

Panthers cut margin to 6-3

Carolina has halved the New York Jets' margin to 6-3 early in the third quarter due to a Jets turnover.

Panther reserve safety Marcus Hudson forced a fumble on the Jets' first series of the second half and Carolina recovered at the New York 31.

Second-string QB Jimmy Clausen entered the game at that point with a short field to work with, but couldn't get a first down. On third-and-9, Clausen threw for six yards on a slant. John Kasay kicked a 42-yard field goal. With 12:59 left in the third quarter, it's...

N.Y. Jets 6, Carolina 3

A defensive first-half struggle

The New York Jets continue to lead Carolina, 6-0, in what was about as defensive a first half as you'll find.

A couple of numbers from the first half: The Jets had 45 yards on 33 plays and only three first downs. Yet they have the game's only scores because of Armanti Edwards' two punt-return mistakes. The Panthers' first-team defense really couldn't have played better.

For Carolina: the Panthers have only two first downs in the first half and 67 yards on 27 plays. Matt Moore was 6-for-17 for 57 yards with an interception and a QB rating of 21.0.

Oh, Armanti: 2nd turnover leads to 6-0 Jets margin

Armanti Edwards just gave the New York Jets another field goal -- this time fumbling a punt inside Carolina's 20.

If you're scoring at home, Armanti has now failed to field a punt when he should have (leading to another turnover) and bobbled one he tried to fair-catch. A rough start, for sure.

Still, the Panthers are down only 6-0 because the defense is playing superbly.

Armanti messes up; it's 3-0 Jets

The Panthers committed two turnovers before the game is seven minutes old, the second leading to a Jets field goal and an early 3-0 lead for New York with 5:34 left in the first quarter.

On the first turnover, Matt Moore overthrew Brandon LaFell on a deep route. LaFell was single-covered for awhile, but Jets safety Jim Leonhard made an excellent play to come over and grab the slightly overthrown ball.

The Jets were quickly forced to punt -- Everette Brown had a sack and Chris Gamble nearly had a pickoff himself -- but Carolina quickly turned it over again before the offense even got on the field.

This time, it was Armanti Edwards' fault.

The Jets punt was short -- but not that short. Edwards, playing deep, allowed the ball to bounce in front of him (although it looked like he certainly could have caught it). Then he couldn't get his teammates away from it -- they were blocking for what they thought would be a punt return -- and the ball hit reserve safety Jordan Pugh in the leg.

The Jets quickly recovered at Carolina's 35. Edwards got some advice from Steve Smith after that one on the sideline (Smith is out for this game, but used to be one of the best punt returners in the NFL).

Then Everette Brown had his second sack of the first quarter as Sanchez held the ball a long time. That short-circuited the Jets drive, and Nick Folk hit a 42-yard field goal for New York.

Are you ready for some preseason football?

The Panthers and the New York Jets are on the field a few minutes away from opening preseason game No.2.

On the "not playing" tonight list for the Panthers: Steve Smith, Tyler Brayton, Thomas Davis, Aaron Francisco, Sherrod Martin, Jamar Williams, Quinton Culberson, Jeff Otah and Hilee Taylor.

Since this is the first home game the Panthers have played since all their offseason moves, I did a quick survey to see what the most popular jerseys now are. As you no doubt remember, Jake Delhomme's No.17 and Julius Peppers' No.90 were longtime fan favorites.

I counted the first 40 Panther fans I saw in jerseys, and these were the results. Current Panther players are in bold:

Steve Smith -- 13
Jon Beason -- 8
DeAngelo Williams -- 5
Julius Peppers -- 4
Armanti Edwards -- 3
Jonathan Stewart -- 3
Jake Delhomme -- 2
Stephen Davis -- 1
Sam Mills -- 1

Both Fergusons are keepers

I went to Butler High School's football opener in Winston-Salem Friday night against Mount Tabor. I love high school football, but rarely travel out of the Charlotte area to see it.

I made an exception this time because Butler -- the defending state champs in the biggest-school category -- has been involved in so much controversy this offseason.

Was glad I did. Here's the column that resulted on Riley Ferguson, the sophomore quarterback who has replaced All-American Christian LeMay as Butler's starter.

I knew Ferguson was good, having talked to Coach Mike Newsome about him. What I didn't know was how good his older brother Zach -- a junior, and Riley's elder by 19 months -- was. (Here's David Scott's game story about Butler's 27-14 win).

On Butler's very first play, Zach rescued a wobbly throw by Riley for a long gain. On Butler's fourth play, Newsome called a clever double pass, which ended up with Zach throwing a 33-yard strike to a downfield receiver.

Butler scored on that first drive, which led Riley to start jubilantly celebrating with Deion Walker. Newsome ran up to the younger Ferguson then.

"You can't do that yet!" he screamed. "You can't do that yet!"

And the warning about premature celebration was well-founded. Mount Tabor would quickly score twice and take a 14-7 lead that was nearly 21-7 but for a goal-line stand by Butler.

Then Butler grabbed control of the game, though, helped by both Fergusons (and thhe superb Deion Walker, who scored three touchdowns). Newsome said Zach Ferguson will be a "dominant player" for Butler, and it's hard not to agree. The two remind me a little of Blair and Justin Hardin, the identical twins (who would eventually become coaches themselves) who starred for Kannapolis A.L. Brown close to a decade ago.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The joy of reading to your kids

As part of our "Summer Nights" series at The Observer, I wrote a column about reading at night -- either to your kids or alone. We were reading the "Swiss Family Robinson" here and have now moved on to "To Kill a Mockingbird."

I know a lot of yall read to your kids and/or enjoyed having someone read to you as a child -- today I just want to gently nag you to do so a little more. The wonder of a good story is that, even today with all the electronic distractions kids face, it can still entertain them like nothing else.

Here's the column I wrote about "The Joy of Reading" today, as I took a one-day break from my normal sports fare.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

No million, just 10K

Ron Ashmore's dream of winning a million dollars with three pitches tonight fell $990,000 short.

However, Ashmore still pronounced himself satisfied with the experience after going 0-for-3 in trying to hit, from the pitcher's mound, a 12-inch target set up at home plate at the Kansas City Royals' stadium.

Ashmore, 51, had had his name randomly drawn from 120,000 entries in a sweepstakes sponsored by Hostess (the snack-cake company). If the Denver, N.C. resident threw all three balls through the target -- which was about as big as a dinner plate -- he would win a million dollars.

One out of three would have won $25,000. Two out of three would have won $50,000. Ashburn still received a consolation prize of $10,000 as the sweepstakes winner. (The contestant in 2009 in this same contest also went 0-for-3. Hostess might want to consider widening that hole a little).

"My first two pitches missed by a good bit," Ashmore said. "The first one was low and right. The second one was a little higher, and still at least a foot to the right. But the third one felt really good. I thought it was going to go through the hole, but it missed by about three inches to the left."

Those three inches cost Ashmore $15,000.

Ashmore threw the pitches shortly before the Royals' game tonight. He also got a free trip to Kansas City with his wife, Sharon, and $1,000 in spending money for the trip. "So it's all good," he said.

Could you do this?

In this picture of the 2009 contest, check out how small the target looks and how far away the pitching mound seems. Could any normal person really hit that catcher's mitt three times in a row? The guy throwing here went 0-for-3. Ron Ashmore of Denver, N.C., gets his shot tonight.

I wrote my column today on Ron Ashmore, a local guy who has a chance (albeit a small one) to win a million dollars tonight in Kansas City in a pitching contest.

Ron has three chances to throw the ball through a cut-out target that is 12 inches wide -- about the size of a dinner plate or a catcher's mitt. He would have to make all three to get a million, but he gets $50,000 for two makes, $25,000 for one or $10,000 for zero.

I just wonder how many people could actually do this. Ron gets no warmup, either -- he's got to come out and do this cold. I think the good people at Hostess -- who sponsored this contest -- will probably get to keep their million.

I will post how Ron does on this blog and in Thursday's newspaper.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

For the best: LeMay's prep career is over

Christian LeMay and his family have decided the star high school quarterback won’t play football anywhere this fall. His prep career is over.

Given the difficult circumstances for everyone involved, I think that’s for the best.

LeMay was suspended for 40 days by Charlotte-Mecklenburg school officials for what sources have told The Observer was a sexual encounter with a female student on campus. The LeMays have lost their appeal of that punishment. In a letter released to The Observer Tuesday, the LeMay family called the CMS punishment “merciless.”

Christian LeMay quarterbacked Butler to the school’s first-ever state championship in 2009 as a junior, throwing 44 touchdown passes against only two interceptions. The Sporting News ranked him the No.1 college quarterback prospect in the nation. He has already committed to Georgia, and still plans to graduate from high school early and enroll at Georgia in January 2011.

LeMay just won’t be playing football anywhere, and I think that’s OK – even though I, like many other sports fans in the area, would love to see him throw the ball around a few more times before he goes to college.

But there will be plenty of time for that. LeMay will certainly play – and maybe star – at Georgia. He may be in the NFL one day. We’ll get plenty of chances to see him.

To suddenly transfer to a local private school or one of the South Carolina powerhouse high school football programs to avoid the CMS suspension would have made LeMay look like a mercenary more than anything else – a hired football gun, willing to go anywhere for another dose of the Friday-night spotlight.

Instead, LeMay will take what must surely come as a welcome turn out of that spotlight. Butler will be OK. The Bulldogs are deep, with a team including LeMay’s younger brother Uriah at wide receiver and another fine quarterback in Riley Ferguson.

Christian LeMay will be OK – his scholarship to Georgia still awaits. I surely hope the female involved in this encounter will be OK.

It is best for everyone to move on from this regrettable incident, and LeMay making a last-minute transfer just to play a few more months of high school football would not serve much purpose.

“We are fully confident that his best days are still yet to come,” the LeMay family said of Christian in their statement Wednesday. Let’s all hope that is true, because the past few months haven’t been very good.

Monday, August 16, 2010

3 Monday Panther thoughts

3 things I was thinking while watching Monday morning's practice in Spartanburg under threatening skies that would later produce a light drizzle but not much more:

1. If I'm John Fox, no way I play Steve Smith in the preseason at all, even though No.89 got off the "physically unable to perform" list this morning and returned to practice. Really, what's the point? Smith is always in great shape, he hasn't forgotten how to catch the ball and there's no telling how long that twice-broken arm is going to hold up. No need to take the risk. (And no flag football either).

2. Practice is a little more fun to watch from a spectator's standpoint this season. They hit each other more, they're in full pads more and there are more jobs at stake. With that, there seems to be more of a sense of urgency.

3. Do you know anything about Josh Vaughan, who led the Panthers with 11 rushes and 48 yards in Thursday night's Baltimore game? Vaughan is waaaay down on the depth chart and was out of football most of last season, but the former Richmond Spider has turned a few heads in the preseason. If he doesn't make this team, at least he may catch on somewhere else now. Vaughan is a versatile back who's pretty good catching the ball out of the backfield, too. I'm writing my column about him for Tuesday's newspaper and online -- check back for that.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

3 things I didn't like, 2 I did

Some quick postgame thoughts on the Panthers' 17-12 exhibition-game loss to Baltimore on a very rainy Thursday night:

Three things I didn't like:

1. Armanti Edwards catching the ball. He had his hands on three balls that ultimately hit the ground, and his patterns didn't look very crisp to me, either. As a returner, he fared better, but Armanti (as he would tell you) has a loooong way to go as a receiver.

2. 14 offensive possessions, 0 offensive touchdowns. Lots of reasons for this one -- starting with the fact the Ravens play very good defense and blitz a lot -- but still.

3. First-team pass defense. Joe Flacco sliced the Panthers apart (8-for-12, 120 yards, one TD) in limited time. He mostly worked short -- the Panthers really need some work defending the screen pass -- but also hit the 30-yard long ball to Mark Clayton over Carolina's Captain Munnerlyn.

Two things I did like:

1. The pass rush. Greg Hardy, Tyler Brayton, Eric Moore... and on and on. The Panthers had six sacks and were constantly around the quarterback, and for one game at least, no one missed Julius Peppers.

2. The rushing game. The Panthers had 142 yards on 26 carries -- usually winning numbers. The one huge negative was the fumble at the 1 from Tyrell Sutton.

Baltimore 17, Panthers 12 (final)

On a rainy night in Baltimore, the Ravens edged Carolina 17-12 Thursday night in the preseason opener for both teams.

Carolina had numerous chances to score, but never could net an offensive touchdown. Carolina's only TD was a defensive fumble return, while Baltimore scored two offensive TDs during the game.

The Panthers played all four of their quarterbacks -- that's the position I'll be writing my column about for Friday's newspaper and online -- with Jimmy Clausen and Hunter Cantwell getting the most offensive series. Both had some moments, but neither could dent the goal line.

Baltimore takes 17-9 lead

The Ravens just went ahead of the Panthers, 17-9, on an 8-yard quarterback draw for a touchdown by third-string Baltimore quarterback Troy Smith.

The Ravens had to go only 11 yards for the TD thanks to a spectacular punt return.

The Panthers are now on their third quarterback, too -- Hunter Cantwell's first drive was a three-and-out.

Jimmy Clausen ended 8-for-15 for 80 yards and an interception; Matt Moore was 4-for-7 for 32 yards. The Panthers have yet to score an offensive TD. It is still raining hard as the third quarter winds to a close.

Panthers pull within 1 on defensive TD

The rain has started pouring down again early in the third quarter and it's affecting everything.

The Panthers, however, have played better in it than Baltimore so far -- safety C.J. Wilson just returned a Baltimore fumble 31 yards for a TD. John Kasay shanked the extra-point attempt off the right goalpost, however, leaving Carolina behind, 10-9.

Just before that, Jimmy Clausen threw his first NFL interception. He tried to hit Dexter Jackson on a one-on-one sideline route, but Jackson was well-covered and, to make matters worse, fell down on his cut.

That left Baltimore's Cary Williams with a fairly simple catch, which he made.

However, Carolina reserve defensive end Eric Moore then made a great play, beating a block and knocking the ball out of Jalen Parmele's hands in the backfield. Wilson scooped it up and scored Carolina's first TD.

Also notable: Carolina rookie defensive end Greg Hardy had sacks on consecutive plays earlier this quarter. And the Panthers are giving a long look to Armanti Edwards as punt returner -- he had an 18-yarder earlier in the game.

Nearly a Panther TD, and then...

Jimmy Clausen nearly one-upped himself on his second drive by getting Carolina a touchdown rather than a field goal, but instead the Panthers got nothing. On his third, the Panthers missed a long field goal.

So Clausen has come fairly close to getting scores on all 3 of his possessions, but at halftime it's still Baltimore 10, Carolina 3.

Clausen's best chance at a TD came on his second possession. After a sack and forced fumble by Panther rookie Eric Norwood on Ravens backup QB Marc Bulger, Clausen and Carolina took over at the Baltimore 31.

Carolina moved the ball via run down to the Baltimore 4. On first down, Clausen threw a fade route to the corner for fellow rookie Brandon LaFell.

LaFell got both his hands on it, but Baltimore cornerback Cary Williams got one hand on it, too, and knocked it away.

On the next play, Carolina's Tyrell Sutton ran for 3 yards, fumbled at the 1 and lost the ball to the Ravens.

Baltimore then drove out of trouble and all the way into Panther territory but stalled and missed a long field goal. Clausen got a chance to run the 2-minute drill and threw one over-the-middle rocket to Dante Rosario to convert a third-and-11, but then he ran out of time. John Kasay was going to have a chance from 54 yards out on the final play of the half, but the play was aborted when the snap was fumbled.

Clausen gets Panthers on board

Panthers rookie QB Jimmy Clausen just had a nice NFL debut, leading Carolina to a field goal on his first pro drive to cut Baltimore's lead to 10-3.

Yes, it was against Baltimore's second-team defense, and yes, the drive ultimately fizzled and John Kasay had to boot a 37-yard field goal. But Clausen showed some poise and moved Carolina 61 yards in 10 plays.

His best play: a 25-yard rocket over the middle to Kenny Moore, who was in tight coverage but caught the ball after tipping it. Clausen also showed a little mobility and executed a couple of screen passes well before finally throwing the ball too far outside for Moore on third down when under a heavy blitz.

Late in the second quarter, the Panthers are down by a touchdown. Baltimore has also put in its second-string quarterback -- Marc Bulger.

Baltimore leads 10-0 on Flacco TD pass

Baltimore just completed a 96-yard touchdown drive, the final 30 coming at the expense of the Panther secondary on a Joe Flacco-to-Mark-Clayton touchdown pass.

It's early in the second quarter and the Panthers trail, 10-0.

On the touchdown pass, Captain Munnerlyn (starting in place of injured Chris Gamble) had Clayton singled up one-on-one on the right side. Charles Godfrey tried to help from his safety position, but got frozen briefly and got there too late. Munnerlyn fell down -- he thought there was contact -- and Clayton made the TD grab.

Now the Panthers are beginning their fourth offensive series, and rookie Jimmy Clausen is in the game for the first time.

A Gross beginning

At the end of the first quarter, Baltimore still leads Carolina, 3-0.

The Panthers looked like they were going to accomplish something on their third drive of the first quarter (and likely the last under Matt Moore). But Pro Bowl left tackle Jordan Gross was called for holding -- twice -- on the same drive.

Gross, in fact, piled up three penalties in the first quarter (he also got called for a false start). The second holding penalty was iffy, but there was no doubt about the first one. Both negated two of Moore's best throws of the game and made the Panthers' third drive end in a punt, just like the first two had.

Injury update: Panther defensive end Tyler Brayton probably had the best quarter of anyone on the team, sacking Joe Flacco twice on critical third-down plays. However, on the second sack, Brayton had his left ankle rolled on during the play's aftermath.

At first, he looked really hurt, but then he left the field under his own power. It's unlikely he will play again tonight, but initial reports don't seem to indicate this is a serious injury for the only returning starter on the Panthers' front four.

Baltimore leads Panthers 3-0

Baltimore got the better of the two teams' first drives, when each was playing at full strength. Each team has had the ball once, and Baltimore leads, 3-0.

The Panthers got the ball first. Carolina's first drive reached midfield after a run of about 20 yards by DeAngelo Williams before petering out in a hurry.

Matt Moore first overthrew an open Dante Rosario at the Baltimore 35. Then Moore had to throw the ball away on second down following a Ravens blitz, and another blitz on third-and-10 nailed him. Moore got hit by Baltimore's safety Tom Zbikowski, fumbled the ball and ended up losing 17 yards (although Carolina did recover).

Zbikowski did more damage to the Panthers on the ensuing punt return. He took it back 28 yards and drew a 10-yard penalty on punter Jason Baker for tripping, which let Baltimore start its scoring drive from its own 47.

Baltimore came out firing on its first possession, as Joe Flacco threw a 20-yard pass to Derrick Mason on the Ravens' first play. Baltimore moved mainly by the pass down to Carolina's 5, where a 5-yard illegal start penalty knocked the Ravens backwards.

Then, on third-and-8, Tyler Brayton sacked Flacco for a four-yard loss, and Baltimore needed Shayne Graham's 32-yard field goal to salvage something from the drive.

Baltimore 3, Carolina 0

Pregame Panthers-Ravens weather update

Baltimore seems to be trying to showcase all the summertime weather a city can have in a two-hour span.

When I walked into the stadium just before 6 p.m., there was some sideways lightning, hard rain and -- in some parts of Baltimore -- a tornado warning.

But the rain stopped, the warnings were lifted and now it's sunny with an hour left before kickoff. The only reminder of all the rain Baltimore has had today (it also poured this morning) are the very wet seats. Every fan who has a jacket is sitting on top of it.

The game officially kicks off at 8:05 p.m. The Panthers will be without some of their stars like Steve Smith, Jeff Otah and Jonathan Stewart, but it still will be the closest thing we've seen to the real thing for the Panthers in the past eight months. QB Matt Moore will start but I'll be surprised if he and RB DeAngelo Williams play more than two offensive series.

The Panthers are wearing all white tonight, while the Ravens are in purple jerseys.

Shaky weather in Baltimore

It's two hours before Panthers-Ravens kickoff at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium, and the artificial-turf field is very wet. It has been raining fairly hard for the past 30 minutes or so but now has lightened up a little.

Still, it won't be an easy night to watch this one in person. The seats are all very wet, and although this band of rain is expected to be gone by 6:30 p.m., there's a 30-50 percent chance of rain during the game (which is expected to run from 8-11 p.m.)

Panther linebacker Jon Beason is one of about a half-dozen Panther players on the field right now, jogging back and forth across the field with headphones on.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

6 interesting Panthers-Ravens game notes

I’ve watched a couple of Carolina practices in Spartanburg this week and am going to Baltimore for Thursday night’s Panthers-Ravens nationally-televised preseason game (8 p.m. kickoff). Here are a few things I find interesting on the eve of an exhibition that should be more interesting than usual:

1) Baltimore has 17 former Pro Bowlers on its current roster, which is a pretty staggering number. The Ravens acquired several of them in the offseason, including WR Anquan Boldin, backup QB Marc Bulger and K Shayne Graham. Carolina, by comparison, has a modest six former Pro Bowlers on its current roster. Can you name them all? (Answer is below).

2) John Fox and Baltimore coach John Harbaugh once coached on the same staff as Panthers – the 1987 Pittsburgh Panthers, to be exact. Fox was defensive coordinator; Harbaugh coached tight ends. “I know his whole family really well,” Fox said of Harbaugh.

3) Expect a lot of pounding of the ball Thursday night. Carolina was third in the NFL in rushing last season; Baltimore has Ray Rice, who had 1,339 rushing yards last season and made the Pro Bowl. Fox said the Panthers hope to play all four of their quarterbacks. The Panther starters will play in the first quarter but not much beyond, if any.

4) The Ravens have beaten every team in the NFL except Carolina and New England when it counts – the Panthers are 3-0 against Baltimore in the regular season. The two teams play again Nov. 21st in Charlotte. Baltimore is 3-1 against Carolina in preseason play, however.

5) Panther WR Armanti Edwards and Baltimore starting QB Joe Flacco will be on opposite sidelines Thursday night and were once before in 2007. In that one, Edwards quarterbacked Appalachian State to a 49-21 win over Flacco’s Fighting Blue Hens in the Division I-AA championship.

6) Answer to the Pro Bowl question: the six Pro Bowlers on Carolina’s current roster are Jordan Gross, John Kasay, Steve Smith, Ryan Kalil, Jon Beason and DeAngelo Williams.

Friday, August 6, 2010

"That's not relevant"?! Oh really?

Carolina Panthers guard Duke Robinson talked to the media for the first time today since the beginning of training camp July 29. Normally this would not be a big deal -- an offensive guard who may or may not start talking to the media -- but it passes for one today because Robinson has been singled out by the Panthers for being overweight.

The team didn't let him practice full-go for the first several days of practice. He's in there now, though, and looks pretty good (and pretty big). Robinson is listed at 6-foot-5 and 330 pounds, although he obviously weighs more than that. He doesn't look as big as Kris Jenkins or Maake Kemoeatu, but he's not that terribly far off, I don't believe.

In Robinson's press conference with about 6-8 reporters, I asked him how much he weighed right now, which led to this exchange:

“That’s not relevant,” Robinson said.
“It’s not?” I asked. “It seems relevant.”
“I mean, it is,” said Robinson, smiling with a “You’re-not-getting-that-number-out-of-me” look. “Right now, though, I’m just working. I’m in the process of getting to the goal where I want to get.”

My column for Saturday's newspaper (and online) gets more into Robinson's weight situation and what his upside could be for Carolina if he can control it. In the meantime, I'm going to try out the "That's not relevant" answer in my own life whenever I'm asked a difficult question.

Boss: When are you going to get that overdue story into us?
Me: That's not relevant.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gruden doing TV right way

I wrote my column today about what Jon Gruden -- the former Tampa Bay coach and current TV analyst -- thinks about the Carolina Panthers. Here's the link to that.

What was cool about talking to Gruden was that he actually knew something about Carolina. As strange as this seems, a lot of TV analysts really don't. I've talked to them a number of times before games -- or listened to them during games -- and they mostly parrot whatever has been in the newspapers or online blogs that week. They might throw in a nugget or two from the interviews that they do with the players and coaches on both teams on either Friday or Saturday before the game, but that's about it. You know what I'm talking about.

Gruden is different. A workaholic who used to famously get up at 3:17 a.m. each day while a coach, he still studies the teams he's going to analyze like the coach he was (and will someday undoubtedly be again).

I gave him no advance warning I would ask him about the Panthers -- the phone interview was originally set up for him to talk to me about Jimmy Clausen for my long story on Clausen this past week.

But once we got through that and he still seemed to be enjoying talking football, I asked him off-the-cuff about the Panthers, and he quickly ran through much of their lineup and what he thought about them. It was enlightening, and made me think more of his preparation skills. Gruden will be part of the broadcast team that does Carolina's exhibition game at Baltimore Aug.12th.

Monday, August 2, 2010

My Monday Panther thoughts

I'm here in Spartanburg on a relatively cool, misty day -- a break for all those watching and participating in the Panthers' practices.

A few random notes:

-- My column in today's newspaper was on second-year defensive end Everette Brown, who sounds committed to being better than he was as a rookie in 2009.

-- My column Tuesday will be based on a conversation I had with Jon Gruden, the former Tampa Bay coach and current ESPN analyst. Gruden was a longtime rival of the Panthers and still studies the team closely in his current job (he will be in the booth for the Panthers' exhibition opener at Baltimore Aug.12). He had some interesting things to say about them.

-- Armanti Edwards was very open Monday about how much he feels like he's been struggling as he changes positions to wide receiver. According to Edwards, playing quarterback in college has barely helped him at all. Plus, he has to run more. "I thought I was in shape until the first practice," he said. Plus, he has so many plays to learn. This is one experiment that's going to take awhile before we see whether it pans out.

-- Kenny Moore impressed me Monday with a couple of nice catches in traffic.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Notre Dame QBs: hit and miss

I wrote a long, in-depth profile of Jimmy Clausen in today's Charlotte Observer. But one thing I found interesting in my research but did not get into fully was how difficult it has been for Notre Dame quarterbacks to succeed in the NFL over the past 20 years.

The last Notre Dame quarterback to make the Pro Bowl in the NFL was... wait for it... Steve Beuerlein, when he had that one fantastic, 36-TD year in coach George Seifert's offense with Carolina in 1999.

But think about all the disappointments before and after Beuerlein. Rick Mirer was the overall No.2 pick in the draft. He flopped. Ron Powlus wasn't regarded that highly, but many thought he'd be a good NFL QB. He flopped. In fact, he was Clausen's position coach at Notre Dame, until Charlie Weis and the whole staff got fired. Powlus is now the quarterback coach for the Akron Zips.

Brady Quinn? I guess the jury is still out, but he sure didn't light it up in Cleveland once given the opportunity and got traded to Denver to help pave the way for Jake Delhomme to start in Cleveland this season.

Before Beuerlein, of course, there were some gems coming out of the Golden Dome. Joe Montana was the most notable -- he was arguably the best NFL QB of all time -- and Joe Theismann was also a Super Bowl winner.

A couple of other notes: It's interesting to me the heavy pro- and anti-Clausen sentiment out there. Simply writing about him brings out the Clausen haters in force (check the comments below the story). I'm neither a hater or lover of Clausen -- I just felt we owed our readers a thorough look at the first quarterback the Panthers have used a top-3 draft choice on since Kerry Collins in 1995.

As for the occasional commenters who have complained we don't write enough about Matt Moore, I will point this out again -- Moore was the main story (with a big picture) the first day of camp, and we have thoroughly covered his rise to the No.1 spot (which I believe he will hold all year unless injured) with long stories like this one.

And, if you've forgotten, I will lastly point out that I was one of the first people to call for Delhomme's benching in 2009, when the Panthers started 0-3 and I wrote a much-discussed column about why Carolina should turn to Moore. (It took John Fox eight more games to do so, however, and even then only because of Jake's finger injury). So this Clausen story isn't about trying to stir up an anti-Moore force. Moore is the best QB the Panthers have right now.