Panthers' roster numbers game leaves Clausen's future uncertain

jjones@charlotteobserver.comAugust 25, 2013 

Jimmy Clausen is enjoying the best preseason of his NFL career entering his fourth year, but despite that, he might not be long for Charlotte.

The quarterback, third on the Carolina Panthers depth chart, is part of a numbers game that all NFL teams will be facing this week. By Tuesday, Carolina must trim four players off its current roster to get to 75. By Saturday, the Panthers have to be at 53.

Clausen has been through this the past two preseasons as the backup to Cam Newton and Derek Anderson, but that was before Carolina hired a general manager with a recent background of having just two quarterbacks on the final roster.

Dave Gettleman has brought a New York Giants influence to Carolina, one that involves signing former Giants and solidifying a strong defensive front seven. In recent years, New York, where Gettleman worked in the personnel department for more than a decade, has gone with two quarterbacks on its final roster.

Clausen, who spent time Sunday after practice working with backup centers, said he doesn’t concern himself with the numbers game.

“No. I mean I don’t think there’s anybody that can think that way,” he said. “Obviously this is a tough job, and every other job in the world is tough. You’ve got to keep working and control what you can control. That’s what I’m doing.”

Through three exhibitions, Clausen is 9-for-17 for 93 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions in 51 official snaps.

The Panthers decided to play him with the second team last week at Baltimore to see what he could do with a better offense around him. His first play of the game came on a rollout to the right, where Clausen delivered a strike to David Gettis for a 12-yard gain and a first down.

Carolina didn’t get to see much though, as Clausen went 2-for-4 for 20 yards on 18 snaps while trying to salt the game away on the ground and cling to a 34-27 victory.

“You would have loved to (see him pass more),” coach Ron Rivera said. “Jimmy’s had a good camp and you really want to know how much he’s improved and where he is as we go forward. The young man is really developing into a solid guy and we want to continue with him.”

Clausen has come a long way from his rookie year in 2010 that saw him average 5.2 yards per pass and throw three touchdowns to nine interceptions in a 2-14 season.

He hasn’t had the opportunity to redeem himself, at least in a regular-season game. Clausen has been inactive for every game since the start of the 2011 regular season.

“I feel confident in what we’re doing offensively,” Clausen said. “I feel confident in what I’m doing as far as reads and progressions and all that. The biggest thing, since my rookie year I haven’t had a lot of game reps, so this preseason just getting more game reps is a big key.”

According to one team source, Clausen’s roster spot might not be up in the air because of any quarterback philosophy but instead the myriad injuries to the offensive line. Tackle Bruce Campbell will soon go to injured reserve and guards Amini Silatolu, Jeff Byers and Edmund Kugbila sat out of practice Sunday with various injuries, so Clausen’s spot could be better served on a healthy lineman rather than an inactive quarterback.

As the Panthers have seen what Clausen has done during exhibitions, so, too, have NFL teams that might be in need of a backup. Though Clausen wouldn’t exactly be a splash trade for a team, there are a handful of teams in the market for a trustworthy backup.

After starter Mark Sanchez went out of an exhibition Saturday with an injury, the New York Jets were reported to be interested in Matt Leinart and John Beck, who together have played for seven teams in their careers.

Leinart signed with the Bills on Sunday with doubts surrounding starter E.J. Manuel and backup Kevin Kolb’s availability for Week 1. Later Sunday, Buffalo traded with Detroit to get Thaddeus Lewis, a third-year quarterback from Duke who has 32 passes in his NFL career.

And after signing Seneca Wallace, the 49ers are reportedly trying to trade Colt McCoy, whose skill set isn’t that dissimilar to Clausen’s. San Francisco has already fielded calls for McCoy, according to one report.

Clausen will get his next opportunity to impress coaches Thursday when the Panthers host Pittsburgh. Rivera has yet to decide how much the starters will play against the Steelers, and he didn’t rule out the possibility of Clausen playing as much as one half.

It could be his chance to show everyone just how far he’s come.

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9

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