Panthers fans were looking for some clarity on the quarterback situation Friday night, but they certainly did not get what they expected. Newton completed seven of his 14 attempts for 66 yards and picked up 18 yards rushing on four attempts. Clausen completed nine of his 15 attempts for 69 yards.
Neither Newton or Clausen really separated themselves from the other and one can only wonder if a decision truly needs to be made at this point. Steve Smith is not in the starting lineup and he is the Panthers' only proven receiver. Having him out of the offense is a huge hindrance to the offense and you can't base too much off the team's play without him.
You can see the talent in Cam and it's easy to get excited when you watch him play. His rushing ability shined through more than in the previous week and you could tell that he will be rushing even more once the training wheels are taken off during the regular season.
Newton made a few beautiful throws, fitting the ball into very tight holes. These were throws that would be very tough for Clausen to make. Newton was still messy with his footwork but the fact that he was so accurate at times while throwing off his back foot shows that he can be a special player some day.
Clausen was a lot less dramatic. He was more consistent and threw fewer dangerous passes. However, that may be what the coaches want to see from Clausen. He won't win you many games, but the Panthers are not going to win the NFC South this season. They need to concentrate on building a winning attitude and having a consistent quarterback is the first step towards doing that. Leaving Newton to watch Clausen when the season begins could be in the team's best interest.
There were certain aspects of Clausen's night that I was impressed with. He got the offense rolling better than Newton, which is a huge plus. Clausen was able to pick up a few first downs and the offense advanced the ball into Miami territory.
When you look at the first two preseason games and training camp in whole, Clausen seemingly has outperformed Newton. But has he done enough? Although it was Clausen's job to lose, that was a bit of a stretch from the start. It became evident that Newton would be given the nod if he played comparably to Jimmy and he's done that, so it appears the job is his, right?
No. Ron Rivera has said that he is not ready to name a starting quarterback, contradicting what he has told the media to this point, which is that he will name a starting quarterback after the second preseason game.
This means the third preseason game is a big question mark. We don't know if Clausen or Newton will get the bulk of the playing time in the preseason week notorious for playing starters well into the second half. My belief is that Clausen will play the first half and Newton the second. This will give both a chance to play with the starters and get equal playing time to win the job.
At this time, I'm going to give the edge to Newton. There is some pressure from the front office to fill seats and Cam Newton will do that. He's already drastically improved Carolina's preseason TV ratings. That, combined with Newton's high ceiling and big-play ability, will lure the Panthers into starting him for the team's Week 1 game against Arizona.
Edge: Cam Newton