|Rivera not ready to name a starter after both young QBs struggle against Miami|
|Written by Steve Reed|
|Friday, 19 August 2011 21:18|
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – So who should start the season at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers?|
That’s the burning question everyone will be asking this weekend after a less than inspiring effort by No. 1 draft pick Cam Newton in his first preseason start Friday night, a 20-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium.
Newton played the entire first half but only managed to lead the Panthers to three first downs and no points in five possessions. With star wide receiver Steve Smith and three other offensive starters on the sidelines, Newton completed 7 of 14 passes for 66 yards in the opening half as the Panthers spotted the Dolphins a 17-point lead.
The Panthers failed to convert on all five third down opportunities under Newton and he completed only one pass to a wide receiver – that a 2-yard pass to Armanti Edwards. Five of his completions went to tight ends.
Jimmy Clausen, who relieved Newton in the second half, didn’t exactly light it up either, although he did lead the Panthers to 10 points in the fourth quarter. Carolina’s only touchdown came after former Panthers quarterback Matt Moore turned the ball over at his own 15-yard line and the Tyrell Sutton was able to punch it in the end zone against Miami’s reserves.
Clausen finished a pedestrian 9 of 15 for 69 yards with most of those completions coming on check downs.
Coach Ron Rivera said he wasn’t ready to choose a regular season starter after Friday night’s game, saying he needs to watch tape and meet with offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski and quarterbacks coach Mike Shula on Saturday before making any final decisions.
When asked if he’ll name a starter next week, Rivera said, “We’ll see.”
Rivera said Derek Anderson, who did not play Friday night, is not in the mix to be the opening day starting quarterback. He said that battle is between Newton and Clausen.
“They’re our future,” Rivera said.
Newton wasn’t exactly thrilled with his performance.
When asked by a reporter if he thinks he’s done enough to earn the starting job, Newton replied, “No sir. (But) I’m not going to worry about who’s the starting quarterback and who’s not, I’m going to worry about myself getting better.
“I’m not pleased with it all. But tomorrow when the film is ready I’m going to look and watch it and see what I need to work on.”
Clausen said the starting job is not anything he and Newton discuss and not something he’s going to dwell on either.
“We’re both young quarterbacks and we’re both learning a new system,” Clausen said. “We’re trying to get the terminology down, the verbiage down and the reads down so we can go out and play fast.”
Carolina’s offense has struggled mightily on third down, converting just 4 of 25 opportunities into first downs.
“I think there were just some little things that stopped us,” Clausen said. “I think it was just one guy every time. When we’d start to get something going it just seemed like we could never get over the hump until that one touchdown drive. But that’s what preseason is for, to get those wrinkles out before the season begins.”
Rivera said the young quarterbacks were “efficient at best.”
“They made some good reads and made some good decisions, but they missed a couple of throws and that was disappointing,” Rivera said. “But as a while offense we didn’t do the things we needed to do. We didn’t run good routes and then we didn’t make good decisions either. So basically it was a group thing that we didn’t do the things we needed to do to win this football game.”
Newton did carry four times for 18 yards, showing good movement and elusiveness, although he’ll need to learn to slide at some point.
“You still have to move the ball and score touchdowns and I’m not going to put myself in a box and say I’m not going to run the football,” Newton said. “If that’s what the defense is giving me of course that’s what I’m going to do.”
It didn’t help either quarterback that Carolina’s defense couldn’t get off the field.
The Dolphins, behind an impressive effort by maligned quarterback Chad Henne, rolled up 296 yards and 17 first downs in the first half while controlling the ball for more than 22 minutes.
One week after a strong effort against the New York Giants in which they held Eli Manning and company to three points, the Panthers seemed on their heels for most of the game with limited effectiveness on blitzes. Despite the return of Thomas Davis and Captain Munnerlyn, Henne was able to complete 15 of 24 passes for 194 yards in the opening half while the Dolphins ran for 107 yards on 22 carries, getting short touchdown runs from Lex Hilliard and Daniel Thomas. The Panthers are still without three defensive starters in Jon Beason, Chris Gamble and Greg Hardy.
Rivera said he was disappointed with his defense.
He was particularly upset with the team having 12 players on the field in a goal line situation that cost the Panthers a fumble recovery calling that mental breakdown “unacceptable.”
“We have to make sure on defense that we play strict,” Rivera said of the overall defensive performance. “If you’re supposed to be in the crease, get in your crease. I told the guys when we watch this tape be accountable. I want you to step up and say, ‘It’s my fault.’ I don’t want to hear any excuses for finger-pointing. We’re going to own up to the fact that we didn’t play very well.”