Ah, so that’s why Jimmy Clausen fell into the second round

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 19: Jimmy Clausen  of the Carolina Panthers warms up before their game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium on September 19, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Back in April, some pundits felt as though Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen had first round talent. But good luck trying to find anyone who will admit that now.

Rookie quarterbacks struggle in the NFL – it’s just the way it is. But so far, Clausen has played in all five of the Panthers’ games and has completed just 34 of his 69 pass attempts for 393 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Worse than his numbers is the fact that he’s shown zero ability to move Carolina’s offense whatsoever.

The Bears (Carolina’s opponent on Sunday) have a solid defense and they’re liable to make any quarterback look bad. And hey, if I started against Chicago today, I’d probably crap down my pants, too. But with the way Clausen played in his team’s 23-6 loss on Sunday, it makes you wonder what John Fox and Co. saw in him to make him a second round pick in April.

Clausen completed just 9-of-22 passes for 61 yards and an interception before finally being benched in the fourth quarter. He showed zero accuracy, displayed no rhythm and was rarely on the same page with his receivers. I get that he’s only a rookie, but he hasn’t shown anything that would indicate that he actually belongs in a starting role.

You hate to pin a loss on one player, but because Clausen was so ineffective, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart had nowhere to run and even though the defense picked off Todd Collins (who may have played even worse than Clausen if that’s possible) four times, the Panthers still only managed six points. It’s almost like Clausen’s putrid play had a domino affect on the rest of the team and it doesn’t say a lot about Matt Moore’s game that the Panthers would rather go with the rookie than with him.

Of course, it’s not like Clausen has much to work with in the receiving game. Steve Smith was out with an injury, although one would have thought that Clausen would apperciate that seeing as how Smith has torn him a new one at least once a day since the rookie arrived to Carolina. The Panthers’ wideouts are young and inexperienced, although again, Clausen has shown almost zero intangibles to this point. Most of the time you can say, “That rookie QB makes a lot of mistakes, but you can see the zip on his passes,” or “He just needs a little time to mature, but you can see that he’s accurate and has control of the huddle.”

We’ve got crickets on Clausen.

Today was a new low for the Panthers and it may be a while before they pick up their first win.

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Jay Cutler out for Sunday – will Mike Martz be forced to rely on the run?

Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz stands on the field during warmups before a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders at Soldier Field in Chicago on August 21, 2010.   UPI/Brian Kersey Photo via Newscom

Mike Martz has long established that he would rather sit next to a crying baby on an airplane than run the football any more than he has to on Sundays. In fact, if it were truly up to him, he may scratch the run entirely and throw the ball on every down.

But he has a problem this week. The Bears are in Carolina to take on a winless Panthers team and Jay Cutler is still feeling the affects of the concussion he suffered last Sunday night in New York. That means Todd Collins will have to start, which doesn’t bode well for Martz’s pass-happy offense.

Collins was beyond putrid last weekend and it would behoove the Bears to keep the ball on the ground and allow their defense to win the game. Chicago has two capable running backs in Matt Forte and Chester Taylor, but thanks to Martz’s pass first and ask questions later approach, Da Bears are gaining only 68.8 yards per game on the ground this year.

If Martz can’t adjust, the Bears are in trouble. The Panthers may not be in the win column yet and they certainly don’t have the pass rush that the Giants (Chicago’s opponent last weekend) have, but they hung with the Saints last Sunday and have two running backs in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart that can wear down a tired defense late in games. If Chicago’s defense is on the field for long periods of time thanks to the ineptitude of Collins, then Carolina can take the game out of rookie quarterback Jimmy Claussen’s hand and lean on their ground attack.

I don’t know what’s least likely to happen, Collins actually throwing the ball for more than 2.5 yards per pass or Martz changing his offense to a run first approach.

Or Carolina winning a game.

2010 NFL Power Rankings Week 5

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 03: Quarterback Peyton Manning  of the Indianapolis Colts throws while taking on the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on October 3, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

Week 5 comes with a realization that there isn’t a clear-cut best team in the league right now.

My top team in Week 4, the Colts, lost to the last-place Jaguars last Sunday thanks to a Josh Scobee 59-yard field goal. Despite their record, the Packers are a mess, the Ravens don’t give me that we’re-the-best-team-vibe and the Saints have injury issues.

So while I’ve moved the Packers back into the top spot, just know I’m not entirely convinced they’re the top team in the league. Right now, no team has established themselves as the best.

Let’s get nasty…

Check out Week 4’s Power Rankings

1. Green Bay Packers
Previous Week: 2
One would have thought that after their embarrassing loss to the Bears on Monday night last week that the Pack would come out and steamroll the Lions. But as fellow TSR contributor and Green Bay fan John Paulsen said to me after the game, this team lacks that killer tenacity. Regardless, they moved back into the top spot after a one-week hiatus.

2. Indianapolis Colts
Previous Week: 1
I wrote it before the season and I’ll write it again now: the Colts are going to have issues stopping the run all season. They’re weak up the middle defensively and they’ll continue to struggle against any team that can establish the run.

3. Baltimore Ravens
Previous Week: 4
It’s never easy to march into Pittsburgh and knock off the Steelers. It’s even harder to look good while doing it, so I’m not going to knock the Ravens for having to pull out a win in the final minute. This isn’t college football, where teams get style points for wins. That was a hard-fought win, Baltimore.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Previous Week: 3
Even though the loss to the Ravens last Sunday stings, Mike Tomlin has to feel good that his team went 3-1 without Ben Roethlisberger. Even though everyone in Pittsburgh is excited for his return, it’ll be interesting to see how rusty Big Ben is next week. The Steelers’ bye couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

5. Atlanta Falcons
Previous Week: 5
You could have seen that letdown coming from a mile away. The Falcons were coming off a huge emotional win over the Saints in New Orleans and were taking on a winless 49ers team at home. Thanks to Roddy White’s outstanding hustle, the Falcons were fortunate to walk out of the Georgia Dome with a victory last week.

6. New Orleans Saints
Previous Week: 6
I thought about dropping the Saints down after they struggled last Sunday with the lowly Panthers, but this is one banged up football team right now and Carolina has always given them trouble for one reason or another. The Saints just have to get by with what they have until they can return to full strength.

7. New York Jets
Previous Week: 7
The Jets are already making me look bad for predicting them to finish third in the AFC East. What a display of domination they put on in Buffalo last Sunday and who says L.T. is finished? It’s great to see him at the top of his game again.

8. New England Patriots
Previous Week: 11
Holy special teams, Batman – what a performance in Miami. Congratulations to Tom Brady for his 100th career win. Even though it’s fun to root against the Patriots because of their success, let’s not overlook the fact that Brady is a self-made player.

9. Houston Texans
Previous Week: 9
Considering the Texans were without Andre Johnson and benched Arian Foster for the first quarter, it was impressive that they still scored 31 points. I realize it was against the Raiders, but Bruce Gradkowski has breathed life into that team and it was good to see that Houston didn’t falter against an inferior opponent on the road.

10. Chicago Bears
Previous Week: 10
I’ve been awfully hard on the Bears so I’m going to give them a mulligan this week. Even though they still probably would have lost given how bad Jay Cutler was playing, they didn’t have a chance once Todd Collins entered the game. And whom else am I going to put here? Dallas? The Giants? This is a worse spot than No. 1.

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Todd Collins was a tad rusty to his return to the field

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 03: Todd Collins  of the Chicago Bears lays on the field after getting injured against the New York Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium on October 3, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

For much of the offseason, the Bears were actively pursuing a veteran quarterback to back up Jay Cutler and after Todd Collins’ performance last night in Chicago’s 17-3 loss to the Giants, they might want to keep searching.

The Bears knew they weren’t getting much when they signed Collins two weeks before the season started. But they hoped that a) they would never have to play him and b) if they did, he would show some of the veteran poise that made him a reliable backup in other cities.

Unfortunately the Bears did have to play Collins last night and even more unfortunate was how he fared. He completed just 4-of-11 passes for 36 yards and was intercepted once before leaving the game late in the fourth quarter after taking a shot from a defender.

His performance was a painful reminder for the Bears about how unsettled the backup position is behind Cutler. They had drafted former Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour in April, but he failed to impress this spring and was eventually claimed off waivers by the Bengals. That leaves Chicago with Collins, who had to play last night because Jay Cutler was suffering from concussion-like symptoms at halftime, and No. 3 Caleb Hanie.

At this point, the Bears don’t have many options (we’re talking the Brian St. Pierre’s of the world), which is troubling to say the least. Cutler’s injury isn’t believed to be serious, but with the new concussion rules that the NFL has, who knows if he’ll be medically cleared to play for Chicago’s next game. And if he can’t go, that means another four-plus quarters of Collins.

Granted, the Giants’ pass rush is fierce and it was Collins’ first game in quite some time. But nobody wants to see that again. Not Bear fans. Not NFL fans. Not even Todd Collins fans.

Suddenly Brian St. Pierre doesn’t sound that bad.

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