CHARLOTTE – Head coach John Fox said that no single player is to blame for the Panthers' early-season struggles on offense, but Fox is giving one player – rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen – a shot at turning the tide.
Fox announced Monday that Clausen, the team's second-round draft pick, will replace Matt Moore as starting quarterback for Sunday's home game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"It's not just the quarterback, but somehow or another we have to gain some confidence in the passing game," Fox said one day after the Panthers fell 20-7 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "Jimmy is a guy we think highly of, and we're giving him an opportunity. I thought he made the most of his opportunities Sunday, and we'll see how it goes this week.
"I don't think this is an indictment on Matt at all. I wouldn't want him to agree with the decision – I wouldn't think he would – but I don't know where his confidence level is or where our confidence level on offense is. This is a move just to try to spark our offense."
Fox told the two quarterbacks of his decision Monday morning before addressing the media.
"I was surprised, to be honest," Clausen said. "I was just coming in for another day of work, watching film and starting to get ready for the Bengals. It was a surprise to hear that I was going to be starting. It's exciting, but at the same time, it's time to get to work now."
Moore took the news as well as reasonably could be expected.
"I'm not happy with it, but I understand and I accept it," he said. "It's definitely not what you want to hear as a player, but I accept it and understand.
"I know I can play. Unfortunately, the last two showings haven't been great, so this is the option that we have, and they went with it. I've just got to be ready if called upon."
Over the Panthers' 0-2 start, they rank 27th out of 32 NFL teams in yards per game (257.5) and 28th in scoring (12.5 points per game). Moore is next-to-last in passer rating at 41.8, having completed 20-of-49 passes for 307 yards, with two touchdowns and four interceptions. He also lost a fumble in each of the first two games.
Moore gave way to Clausen in the closing minutes of the season opener at the New York Giants after suffering a concussion, and Clausen took over for the final 10 minutes Sunday.
Clausen, who is 7-for-15 for 59 yards and one interception so far, directed Carolina on an 18-play, 78-yard drive upon entering the game against Tampa Bay. Though the drive stalled at the goal line, Clausen showed enough to earn the chance to be the fifth rookie to start under center for the Panthers -- the first since Moore in 2007.
"I thought I got the ball out well," Clausen said. "I hit my fifth or seventh step and got the ball out, trying to get it to the playmakers and let them make plays down the field.
"I think the biggest thing that's going to be different this week is just getting more reps (in practice). I think it's going to make me feel more comfortable with the offense."
Clausen said his teammates have been supportive of him, but they realize that they need to provide something beyond moral support come kickoff.
"I think he's a good young player, and he's showed promise," tight end Dante Rosario said. "It will be a change for the offense, but we need to step up around him.
"It's never just one guy's responsibility for how well we do on offense; all 11 guys need to step up and make sure we're moving the ball and scoring touchdowns."