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Mr. Scot

Scouting Jimmy Clausen

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Having a girlfriend who's a Notre Dame fan means that I saw quite a bit of Jimmy Clausen last year. By the end of the college season, I was high on the idea of drafting him but didn't think he'd fall far enough. By the end of the Panthers season, I was ready to go with Matt Moore as the starter and felt fairly sure that our first draft pick would be the best wide receiver available.

When draft day rolled around, Clausen's surprising slide down the charts had me saying, "oh no, we're going to take a QB that we don't have an immediate need for and bypass a receiver that we need badly". After the 48th pick was made, I was disheartened. I was however, "re-heartened" when they team was able to nab Brandon LaFell, and even more "heartened" when they also got Armanti Edwards.

"Depending on how good Moore really is," I thought, "Clausen should be able to sit for at least one season, maybe even two or three. Whenever his time does come, he'll be well-prepared and ready to go.'

Substitute the word "game" for the word "season" and that first statement becomes a lot more accurate :(

So now, here we are ready to watch Clausen take the reins way earlier than the coaching staff would have wanted, but about two games later than Clausen himself would have preferred. So with all that in mind, what can we expect to see this Sunday? What will be the good, the bad, and the ugly?

We'll start with the good...

ACCURACY: Clausen's pretty good with ball placement, putting his throws where they're less likely to be picked or where the only guy who has a shot at them is the receiver. Granted, he's been off once or twice in a few throws to date, but I think that has to do with adjusting to the speed of pro defenders (something every rookie has to do). Yeah, he may wing a highball or two, but for the most part his passes tend to go where they're supposed to go. This is important not only in avoiding interceptions, but also when it comes to throwing a ball that a receiver can run with rather than having to adjust and wait to be tackled.

CONFIDENCE: Some guys think they're in charge. Others know they are. Clausen is the latter. He may be younger than a lot of the guys he'll be commanding on offense, but he won't go into the game wide-eyed and awestruck. This is where he expected to be, and when you see him break the huddle and walk to the line, you'll know it. Likewise, when he looks at the opposing defense, he'll be seeing positions, not star players. And there's a toughness about him that should keep him from being afraid, even when one of those big fellas lays a good smack on him. A guy named Jake had a similar mojo in years past, and it got him a lot further than his talent alone would have taken him. Likewise, there's a fellow by the name of Steve Smith who often plays best when he plays angry. This may be the first season where you see the guy throwing the ball look just as ticked off as the guy catching it.

INTELLIGENCE: Many quarterbacks and coaches will tell you that the moments before the snap are as critical to the success of a play as the moments after. Recognizing what alignments mean, knowing how to read the body language of opposing linebackers, catching on when someone's trying to fool you, and being able to see where that oh-so-valuable mismatch is happening... These skills are gold to quarterbacks, and Clausen has them. He'll need them on Sunday too, because Mike Zimmer is one of the smarter DCs in the league. You can bet Zimmer will show Clausen a thing or two he hasn't seen before. Rest assured that he'll be fooled once or twice, but Clausen is smart enough that he shouldn't be saying "shame on me" all too often.

CRAFTINESS: Defensive coordinators aren't the only ones who can play mind games. Sometimes what a quarterback does with his eyes, his head or even his voice can be just as crucial to a play's success as what he does with his arms and his feet. A good hard count can be used to gain needed yards at a critical time. Likewise, looking off a safety can be the difference between a touchdown and an interception. Clausen's generally been good at that, and considering that at the pro level the success of a play can depend on a fraction of a second's hesitation, that's a nice talent to have.

GOOD FOOT SKILLS: Clausen has what some folks call 'pocket mobility". You'll never confuse him with Steve Young or Michael Vick as a runner (even Matt Moore might be better at it) but he knows how to move around in the pocket, when to step up in it, and when to step out of it. Likewise, he knows how to plant and step into his throws. It's no easy thing to do that with a 300 pound defensive lineman is barreling toward you like a charging rhino, but Clausen's done that plenty. Playing behind a Notre Dame offensive line for whom 'suspect" might have been a compliment was far from ideal, but it might have been good prep for what he'll face in Carolina (at least early on).

WILLINGNESS TO THROW IT AWAY: Patience is a virtue, and can be especially virtuous in the NFL. "take what the defense gives you" is a fairly common sentence for a young QB to hear from his coach, and it's sound advice. Between Clausen and Moore, Clausen is much more willing to toss a ball out of bounds when nothing presents itself and move on to the next play. Add in that Clausen's throwaways tend to be high arcs that go well out of bounds without anybody less than fifteen feet tall having a good shot at picking them off. That’s good, because some QBs don't put as much on their throwaways as they should, and they wind up turning into picks (Delhomme was bad about that). No such worry with Clausen.

(to be continued)

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Moving on, what are the things about Clausen's game that may cause concern and consternation?

LOW TRAJECTORY PASSES: It's not terribly unusual for a quarterbacks harder throws to follow a lower flight path. This is true of a lot of Clausen's passes. With enough zip, you can still get it by a defender, but pro players are a little more "zippy" than college guys. Given that the field sometimes gets crowded or guys get list behind other guys, a low pass (especially over the middle) can be an interception just waiting to happen. Don't expect that throwing motion to change much anytime soon. Thus, Clausen's going to need to be very smart and see the field well to keep this kind of thing from happening.

SHORTER FIELD: While he's certainly no Chad Pennington, Clausen isn't exactly Brett Favre either. His longball still needs some work, and given that the Panther running game tends to live and die on the threat of the longball, this could be an issue. Point blank, we just don't have the kind of receivers (outside of Steve Smith) that you can count on for a lot of yards after catch. Hence, the risk with Clausen is that our passing game might generate more horizontal yards than vertical.

A BIT OF AN ATTITUDE: Competitiveness is a good thing for any pro athlete to have. Unfortunately, when things go bad, competitiveness can turn into churlishness and even childishness. Clausen's been known to blow his stack a time or two, and you can get away with that as long as you keep control and don't antagonize the wrong guy (say, the guy in the stripey shirt). He'll need to be careful not to lose control, especially is he makes a mistake. Bengal defenders will likely try to goad him into losing it. You have to hope Clausen doesn't take the bait.

WILLINGNESS TO THROW IT AWAY: Yes, it's a good thing. It can also be a bad thing if it happens too much or at the wrong time. If he doesn't want to be David Carr, part deux, then Clausen may have to take a throw or two where his first instinct is to toss it toward a cheerleader. Living to fight another day is only good when you still have "another day" left on the clock and the game's still within reach. Clausen will have to be smart not to let the defenses dictate too much and thus render him ineffective.

There's the good and the bad. Where's the "ugly", you ask? Well, it's primarily on the offensive line, but it's also in those "Son of Chucky" faces that Clausen often makes (the ones that would make Jon Gruden proud).

Jokes aside, the real potential for "ugly" comes in the possibility of failure. Not the failure itself, mind you, but the potential to not handle failure the right way. We've worried a lot about Clausen being ruined by playing too early and taking too much damage. Hence, the fear of his being the next David Carr.

In truth, Clausen and Carr are worlds apart when it comes to attitude and persona. Carr was a quiet, polite, slightly awkward nice guy. Clausen is a brash, cocky, in-your-face competitor. Thus, even facing the same situation, Clausen might not be in danger of being another David Carr.

The next Jeff George, though? That's a possibility, if Clausen doesn't keep his sizable ego in check.

So what, then, does he need to do?

(coming up next)

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When the clock hits gametime this Sunday afternoon, Clausen needs more than anything else to have his head on straight. One of the worst things he could do is to go into this game thinking that it's his star turn. Could it indeed be that? Sure it could, but if he goes into the game expecting that and things go poorly, the whole situation could go south in a big way.

For that reason, I think the best advice for Clausen is simply this:

Don't approach your first pro start thinking that your entire pro career hinges on the outcome of this one game. Yes, it's your pro debut, and as such a reason to be proud. Football pedigree aside though, you're still a rookie. Plenty of guys who turned out to be great quarterbacks spent their rookie campaigns looking like (drum roll) rookies, but truth is that a lack of instant success doesn't always translate to a lack of long-term success.

Clausen can make this his team, but trying to make yourself a leader is about the same as trying to make a girl fall in love with you. Direct effort isn't what makes this sort of thing come to pass. Concentrating on doing the things you ought to do, saying the things you ought to say, and being the guy you ought to be; that's what makes it happen.

Most guys who eventually become great leaders on the field have that one moment, that time when something (usually unexpected) happens, and that event causes your teammates to see you in a different light. Suddenly they look at you and say "wow, he's the man" and from that time on they're ready, willing and able to follow you through the gates of hell.

For Jake Delhomme, that happened in his first start as a Panther. He took a team that was down and out and brought it roaring back to life. From that day forward, guys were fiercely loyal to him and gave him their best, even when the time came that his best wasn't what it used to be.

For you, young Mr. Clausen, that moment may come Sunday, it may come down the road, or it may never come. Be assured though, that if it does, it will be because you were giving it your best in practice, in preparation, in pre-game; and when the moment came, you were ready.

Understand, you may not see that moment coming. More than likely, you will not.

But if it happens, you'll know when it did.

(and so will everybody else)

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CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP. That's worthy of some pie.

Excellent thread. I agree with all of it, and about the ugly part. That's what I was trying to let some of the Clausen guys become aware of when I had such a problem with him Tweeting about going to the movies.

Unfortunatelly for him, he is going to be forced to grow up a lot faster than his trajectory has him on. Which is why I would not have minded having a guy like Delhomme still on the team. I hope someone on this team or coaching staff team is kind enough to take him under their wings and show him how not to be basically what we can sum it up as kind of a "punk" or "brat". Most veteran players in general don't like those.

Other than that aspect, I feel good about his skill, intelligence and overall ability.

For those that are curious to see Clausen in a real game, and why he has been so highly praised this video can kind of explain it. It's on Youtube from the 2008 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl:

He was 22-26, 401 yds, 5 TD, 0 interception........with only 4 incomple passes...and at least 2 of those were clear drops. In a Bowl game folks.

Don't expect that on Sunday or in any game this year but still....the kid does have some skill and keep in mind this Notre Dame team wasn't all that. He did this with a pretty shaky O-line but you can see in this film how quickly he releases the ball, accurately and under pressure. That I really like.

PS: How does one go about inserting videos inside a post?

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fantastic write up Mr. Scott.

how well do you think he will perform against Cinci? I'm not expecting a great game with Cinci having a good DC and two of the best corners in the league, wouldn't mind the win though.

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Great video...I was surprised at how well he threw the deep ball considering it's not one of his strengths and his ball placement was perfect. One thin I did notice is that it seems like he likes to utilize the short underneath throws to suck the defense in and then go over the top. I wish the panthers would do this more. Seems like whenever we send guys out their routes go beyond like 8-10 yards. We need to utilize some shorter crossing routes, slants, outs, or the famous smoke route to they and lull the defense to sleep. You would think our running game would do this but when your down to scores a power running game is useless.

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rep, good read, I am pretty clausen dumb so this helped quite a bit.

when is that shitty avatar coming down, it makes me want to hurt myself

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I am hoping that the coaching staff adjusts the game plan to rely more on the short passign game. This should help get the ball out quicker and take some pressure off of Clausen.

I HATE our run, run, pass attempt for 30 yard offensive strategy. Hit the pass and you are golden....incompletion and you are in trouble. That is a nutshell is why our team has always had issues with sustained drives. Using the short and medium passing game is the way to go.

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What a great post Mr Scott! rep + pie for you!

Edit: Someone should Tweet Jimmy and have him come read that![/QUOTE]

people on here were ripping his ass Monday just for taking the time to tweet. Reading that would just take too much of his valuable time away from preperation.

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Great post, I agree with most of what you said. One thing I disagree with is Clausen's ability to stretch the field. Clausen is the most accurate QB to walk on ND campus and there has never been a better deep ball thrower. He reason why it may seem as if its an issue is because he had Golden Tate, Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph. Those are 3 NFL players to throw too, a lot of the times he threw it up because they were better than every DB they played against. There is absolutely nothing wrong with his deep ball, its not an issue at all. The guy was the #1 overall recruit in his class regardless of position, he wouldnt be ranked that high if he had an issue with arm strength. Not to mention, he wouldve been intercepted more than 4 times his JR year if he did, because they threw the ball deep at least 5-6 times a game.

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