Jimmy Clausen will get the start this week over Cam Newton. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Carolina Panthers fans will have to wait just a little longer for the debut of franchise quarterback Cam Newton.
Jimmy Clausen will start Saturday night's preseason home opener against the New York Giants but Newton, the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, will also see action with the first-team offense, coach Ron Rivera announced Friday at training camp.
“What we’d like to do is get some good efficient drives with Jimmy and then we can get with Cam and get him some real good efficient drives,” Rivera said. “We’re hoping to make sure we got the right offensive lines out there. We have to be real smart about that, while at the same time we don’t want kill anybody either.”
Rivera said most starters -- at least those healthy enough to play -- will play about 12 to 15 snaps, although that could vary by position. The offensive line, for instance, could play more to give Newton added protection.
However, the Panthers will be without several starters including wide receiver Steve Smith, guard Geoff Schwartz and offensive tackle Jeff Otah on offense, and defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis and cornerbacks Chris Gamble and Captain Munnerlyn on defense.
Two other starters -- wide receiver David Gettis and defensive tackle Ron Edwards – were placed on injured reserve Thursday.
That Clausen is starting is not a big surprise considering he’s been getting all of the reps with the first-team offense.
“It’s kind of the natural progression of things,” Rivera said. “Things are going good and both guys are doing a heck of a job and what we’ve done is kind of alternate reps. So we will continue it this week and see how it goes when we get to Monday.”
Clausen went 1-9 as a starter in 2010 and finished with the league's worst quarterback rating so he's eager to turn things around.
"It's going to be a good test for us," Clausen said. "We have to come out of the box fast and put some points on the board and keep progressing like we've been doing every day."
Rivera said he’s not close to making a decision on who’ll start the team’s Sept. 11 regular season opener at Arizona.
"(Rivera) told both me and Cam that he's going to play the best guy out there," Clausen said. "Myself and Cam have had ups and downs throughout camp and we're still learning. We're still young and I think tomorrow is another big test. I can't wait to get out there."
Although Clausen and Newton has formed a friendship, they're still competing for the No. 1 spot.
Clausen said that isn't something he's thinking about.
"You can't think about that when you're going and playing," Clausen said. "You just have to go out and play ball and keep doing the things you are doing in practice, getting in and out of the huddle, get to the line of scrimmage and at the end of the day make some plays."
The Panthers will be featuring a new offense under Rob Chudzinski that's expected to look entirely different than the more conservative one they ran under former offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson and coach John Fox.
"It's a different philosophy and we're going to be stretching the field more," Clausen said. "We have a lot of weapons now. It's going to be fun. It's been a lot of fun this training camp."
Rivera said his starters can plan to play more than they have in past preseasons because they’re still trying to learn the team’s new offensive and defensive schemes.
“They're going to have to (play more), and that's the reality of it,” Rivera said. “This has been a shortened offseason so the guys who play the most are going to get the reps. We need to get live contact. Usually you have OTAs and minicamps to get a feel for each other, so without having that time you need to get more time on the field and get a feel for the defense.”