05/02/10 — Stevens: Youth movement good for Panthers

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Stevens: Youth movement good for Panthers

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on May 2, 2010 1:50 AM

As if it hasn't already been tested enough, the patience of Carolina Panthers fans just might get tried a bit more this season.

Carolina sent a strong message during last weekend's NFL draft that it's building for the future, which might not necessarily translate into wins on the field right away.

The Panthers' youth movement began in early March when they released veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme, which made room for Matt Moore to take over as the starter. Moore is 5-2 with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions in seven career starts.

Carolina drafted Moore some healthy competition-- Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen and Cincinnati's Tony Pike.

There's never been questions about Clausen's talent. As a senior in high school, he was tabbed as the nation's top prep quarterback. He's listed at 6-foot-3 and 222 pounds, with a big arm and he played in a pro-style offense in college.

Clausen's toughness has never been in doubt, either. He threw 28 touchdown passes last season, most of which came with two torn ligaments in the big toe on his right foot.

There have been concerns about Clausen's maturity and leadership ability. Whether Clausen will make the Panthers' locker room his like some at Notre Dame believe he failed to do remains to be seen.

Clausen may ultimately be Carolina's long-term solution at quarterback, but it's hard not to think the job will be Moore's when the season begins.

The Panthers also added much-needed depth at receiver with Appalachian State's Armanti Edwards and LSU's Brandon LaFell. Edwards is the only two-time Walter Peyton Award winner in history as the Football Championship Subdivision's most outstanding player. He also led the Mountaineers to a pair of national championships as a quarterback.

At 6-2, 211 pounds LaFell gives Carolina the big, physical receiver it needs to compliment the small, but speedy Steve Smith. His blocking ability should mesh well in a run-oriented offense.

Carolina also filled holes on the offensive and defensive lines, and in the secondary by signing several undrafted free agents.

The Panthers could have opted for more immediate, but potentially short-term solutions when rumors began to swirl early in the offseason about Donovan McNabb or Michael Vick possibly landing in Carolina.

The 33-year-old McNabb currently has one year left on a 12-year, $115 million contract. It's hard to say whether the Panthers would have been willing to resign an aging quarterback for the same type of money he would have likely garnered from other franchises.

Carolina has a difficult schedule in 2010. Whether it can return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 with a relatively young team is a big question mark.

What isn't so uncertain is the Panthers' plan to rest their hopes on lots of young talent and be good for many years to come.