CHARLOTTE – Following what Panthers head coach John Fox termed an "outstanding day" of practice, Fox told rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen that he would start Sunday's game at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"I'm just thrilled that Coach Fox and the coaching staff have confidence in me to go out and start against Tampa," Clausen said. "I'm just trying to work as hard as I can right now to get prepared for the game on Sunday."
Clausen replaced Matt Moore early in the second quarter of last week's 34-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints after Moore suffered what later was diagnosed to be a season-ending shoulder injury. Clausen struggled along with the rest of the offense and was replaced by fellow rookie Tony Pike for the fourth quarter, but Fox said Wednesday that Clausen would get his fourth start of the season at Tampa.
"He's got all the tools," Fox said. "Tony Pike has the tools. Matt Moore had the tools. The key is experience.
"With more and more experience, he'll get better in those things. I don't have any doubts about that. You just can't rush it. He's had some experiences, and he'll grow with each one of them."
Hampered by poor field position, Clausen went 8-for-18 for 47 yards in six series against New Orleans. The offense picked just four first downs with Clausen under center: one via penalty, one on a Clausen scramble, one on a fake punt and one on a third-down conversion just before an interception that the Saints returned for a touchdown.
Pike went 6-for-12 for 47 yards in his NFL debut, leading a pair of drives that stalled in the red zone against a softer Saints defensive approach.
"Obviously, as a competitor, you want to be the guy," Pike said. "But in this business, you don't really have time to be down or sulk about anything. I think as Sunday showed, you've got to be ready no matter what, no matter where you are on the depth chart.
"For me, I'm going to approach every day like I am the starter and make the most out of each rep."
With just two quarterbacks on the roster, wide receiver Armanti Edwards will be the next option at quarterback against the Buccaneers after fellow rookies Clausen and Pike. Edwards had a standout college career as Appalachian State's quarterback and served as signal caller for a couple of plays in the "Mountaineer" package earlier this season against the Chicago Bears.
"I'd just like to get the opportunity to be on the field at any position right now," said Edwards, who has been inactive for the Panthers' other seven games.
Clausen has been the Panthers starter before. Looking for a spark after the offense sputtered in the first two games, Carolina turned to its second-round pick out of Notre Dame. He started the next three games, but the offense continued to stall, so the Panthers turned back to Moore.
Moore led the Panthers to their only victory in his first game back – recording his first career 300-yard passing performance – but the offense struggled the next week at St. Louis and wasn't moving in the right direction early on against New Orleans.
Clausen said the Panthers, now 1-7 and on pace to set the franchise record for fewest points in a season, intends to forget the first eight games and focus on the eight to come.
"That's how we're taking it," he said. "We're at the halfway point of the season, so we're looking it like we're 0-0 right now. Eight games left, and we're just trying to win as many as we can."
Clausen said he doesn't think the offense is as far away from finding success as it might appear, a point he hopes to start proving Sunday against a Tampa Bay defense that has yielded the sixth-most touchdown passes (15) in the NFL this season but also is tied for the league lead in interceptions (14).
"It's just one thing here and there causing us trouble," Clausen said. "Hopefully, the speed of the game will slow down for me. It did a little bit when I went in there last Sunday, and, hopefully, it will keep slowing down for me each and every game.
"The more snaps you take, the more confident you get."