CHARLOTTE — The Carolina Panthers may not have a quarterback controversy.
They do, however, have a bunch of offensive players playing poorly, which is enough to create a different kind of drama.
Not that it took much, but Jimmy Clausen seemed to outplay Matt Moore in the second preseason game, a dismal 9-3 loss to the New York Jets at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday night. It's not so much that Clausen's going to replace Moore, it's just that none of the guys who work with the ball did enough to inspire confidence in any spot on the depth chart.
The game itself was a mess in every way, the kind of football that ruined a perfectly beautiful late-summer night.
The Panthers' defense was brilliant, but the lack of offensive progress from what was supposed to be the trustworthy side of the ball was alarming. Moore was playing without a few guys he'd normally find of use (wide receiver Steve Smith, right tackle Jeff Otah, running back Jonathan Stewart) but was able to do nothing with the ball.
Throw in their complete inability to field punts, and it's a good thing the defense showed up.
Moore authored a brutal first half, finishing 6-of-17 passing for 57 yards and an interception. Through two games, he's accounted for just 89 yards on 24 pass attempts, and has a passer rating of 34.9.
Clausen didn't do much better (9-of-22 for 72 yards and a late pick of his own) and coupled with the Baltimore effort boasts a rating of 34.9.
This is the passing game they spent the offseason revamping after last year's Jake Delhomme-led attack ranked 27th in the league.
Moore couldn't even blame the protection for Saturday's slop. After giving up seven sacks last week, the Panthers allowed just one in the first half. The problem this time was dropped passes - some of which were hurried by an aggressive Jets defense.
The first offense gained a total of 67 yards in the first half with two first downs. Amazingly enough, it was the good offense on the field during the meaningful portion of the night.
The only thing that kept it from being uglier than it already was was a stout effort by a defense that was supposed to be the weak link.
The Jets, who pulled their starters after a quarter, gained just 45 yards in the first half on 33 offensive snaps.
Everette Brown had a pair of sacks on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez in the first quarter, and the Panthers never let New York do much through the air. Cornerbacks Chris Gamble and Captain Munnerlyn and linebacker Jon Beason each got hands on Jets passes in the first half.
Taking away the 15 yards lost on the sacks, the Jets had minus-1 yard through the air in the first half, and Sanchez and Mark Brunell combined for 8-of-17 passes for 14 yards.
The game would have likely been scoreless at the half if not for the exploits of rookie receiver Armanti Edwards, who created a pair of turnovers on punt-return attempts.
The first came when he failed to field a short punt, and it bounced off the leg of teammate Jordan Pugh. The next one he fumbled all on his own. With a pair of short fields, the Jets were able to post only a pair of Nick Folk field goals for a 6-0 halftime lead.
Clausen executed a four-play, 7-yard drive to start the third quarter - culminating with a 41-yard John Kasay field goal - the kind of fireworks the first half lacked. He also led them to three points on his first chance at Baltimore, making him the most prolific passer of a so-far sorry lot.