Camp Roundup: Moore Seizes Control

QB Matt Moore (Chuck Burton/AP)

For the first time eight years, the Panthers have someone other than Jake Delhomme leading the team on to the field at training camp and things here are clearly different.

With Delhomme gone, this is clearly Matt Moore's team.

It's a big change for Moore, 25, but one he insists won't let change him.

"I just try to be myself," said Moore, an even-keeled kid from California. "I think that is the approach I always try to take. There are different styles to play this game. But just because the depth chart has changed doesn't mean I need to change at all. If I can keep that in mind and just be true to myself I think everything will work out."

That's exactly what offensive tackle Jordan Gross has been telling Moore.

Admittedly, Gross was best buddies with Delhomme -- they'd eat together every night at camp -- and hated to see him go. But he believes Moore, who is 6-2 overall as the team's starter, has the talent and potential to be a great quarterback.

"A lot of times when you see a guy step into a starting role as a quarterback you see him try to do more than he's been doing," Gross said. "The reason we all have faith in Matt is because of what he did last year.

"I've been trying to affirm with to be that same guy. Don't stand on the rooftops and shout what everyone else needs to do. Get good at playing quarterback and the rest will come."

So far, Moore has been pretty darn good at playing quarterback.

He was 4-1 as Carolina's starter down the stretch last season and his quarterback rating during that stretch was second in the league only to San Diego's Phillip Rivers, prompting management to fire Delhomme and anoint Moore the new starting quarterback. And yet, there are already folks around the country who aren't willing to give him a chance, eager to hand the reigns off to rookie Jimmy Clausen simply because he was a star at Notre Dame.

But the reality is this: There is no quarterback controversy in Carolina.

While Clausen certainly figures into the team's future, Moore is the guy in Carolina for 2010. Beyond that, of course, nobody knows as Moore is working under a one-year contract.

If Moore is feeling the pressure from Clausen, he's certainly not showing it.

"I am pretty comfortable," he said matter-of-factly. "Experience, there is nothing like it. To have those five games last year and finish the way we did, to me that's a big deal."

Although Moore is striving to be the same guy, it doesn't take long to recognize a noticeable difference in his demeanor on the practice field.

Moore understands this is now his team and his personality is becoming more evident. Before he was careful not to step on Delhomme's feet, but in the first three days of training camp Moore has been more outspoken and vocal, often seen shouting encouragement and congratulations to teammates after a nice play.

Coach John Fox has already seen Moore's confidence grow.

"I think it's kind of a natural progression," Fox said. "All of a sudden you're the starting quarterback, and with that comes responsibility. He's got those abilities. He has those intangibles. It all really kind of works around performance. I think that's what we're here to get better at."

CAMP CALENDAR: Fan Fest is Aug. 8 at Bank of America Stadium. Camp closes on Aug. 18.

NOTES, QUOTES

Although he opened camp on the active/physically unable to perform list, Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart said he hopes to return to practice "soon," indicating that could come before the team breaks camp on Aug. 18.

Regardless, he said he'll be ready to play in the Sept. 12 regular-season opener against the New York Giants.

Stewart, who is coming off surgery in January to repair a problem where the Achilles tendon meets the heel, said he hasn't been healthy since his junior year at Oregon in 2007. But he's finally close.

"My foot is getting better and the progress is on point for the season and everything, so there's nothing to worry about there," said Stewart, the team's leading rusher last season. "We're just being smart. The coaches are being smart, and trainers too, they're all working together as usual."

Stewart has been an interesting case study since the Panthers selected him in the first round of the 2008 draft.

He's rarely practiced and yet, amazingly, he's never missed a game, kind of like that old uncle who waits until Sunday to roll that vintage Cadillac out of the garage.

In two seasons as DeAngelo Williams' backup, Stewart has piled up 1,969 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry with 20 touchdowns. Last year he led the team in rushing, racking up 430 yards in the final three games with Williams on the sideline nursing a sore foot.

That included a franchise-record 206-yard effort in a 41-9 win over the Giants.

"He's awesome," said tight end Jeff King. "I know he wants to be out there, but I don't know how he does it. Honestly, it's amazing how he comes out and plays with the limited amount of practice time he's had over the past couple of years."


DT Tank Tyler
Chuck Burton/AP
--Just who'll be Carolina's starting defensive tackles this season? Defensive line coach Brian Baker wishes he knew.

After an offseason in which the Panthers parted ways with Damione Lewis and Maake Kemoeatu and didn't re-sign Hollis Thomas, the two starting spots were left vacant this season. The expectation coming into camp was that Louis Leonard and Tank Tyler would be the starters with some combination of Ed Johnson, Corvey Irvin, Nick Hayden and Derek Landri working as backups. And it still may end up that way.

But three days into camp, Baker had absolutely no idea how things will shake out.

Leonard has yet to practice while recovering from a leg injury last season and nobody else has really jumped to the forefront at this point, although a few have shown flashes.

"It's going to be competitive inside," Baker said. "If you wanted to make me name who the starting tackles are going to be, I truly couldn't do it right now. I don't know who's going to be on the 53-(man roster) at this point -- and that's good and bad. You like to know who your guys are going to be, but the good thing is there are a lot of guys who are good enough to start."

--Owner Jerry Richardson made an appearance at practice Saturday morning, driving around in a golf cart with WR Steve Smith by his side for a good portion of practice. The two have a close relationship that goes back a long time. Smith has long viewed Richardson as a father figure.

At one point near the end of practice, Richardson's cart almost got plunked by punter Jason Baker, who was working on his coffin corner kicks. Baker's ball hit about five feet from Richardson and kicker John Kasay quickly pointed out to Baker that he was kicking balls in the direction of the owner.

--There was a funny moment during the morning practice when second-year RB Mike Goodson asked coaches if he could take on the team's top LB Jon Beason in one-on-one blitz pickup drills.

"We have a request," RB coach Jim Skipper announced during practice.

The players standing nearby erupted when Goodson trotted out and lined up to block Beason. Pass protection has not been his strong suit -- maybe one of the reasons he wanted to prove himself -- but Goodson did pretty well holding Beason at bay, although the two-time Pro Bowl linebacker did appear to lose his footing on the wet field.

Afterward, Goodson was asked why he boldly chose to block Beason and said, "To be the best, you have to go against the best."

--Goodson looks very fast at training camp and it's not just because of the all-white cleats he's chosen to wear.

With a year under his belt, Goodson feels like he knows the plays and doesn't have to think as much about his assignments and that's allowed him to go faster.

"It definitely puts a stutter in your step when you're thinking about what to do and you have to think about which way to go and what's the play call," Goodson said. "When you know (the plays) in the back of your head, you just go. It makes you a lot faster."

--Guard Duke Robinson came into camp overweight and out of shape and the Panthers won't put him on the practice field until they feel like he's ready to go. He's not there yet and remains on active-PUP after the first two days.

"We're being precautionary there with some weight and conditioning and when he meets those (goals) he'll be out there," Fox said.

Fox said Robinson won't necessarily have to pass a conditioning test to get on the field like DT Albert Haynesworth in Washington.

Coming into camp Robinson had a chance to compete for a starting spot at right guard, but that may be gone now.

When asked if he's disappointed Robinson didn't come into camp in shape, Fox replied, "We've had guys that didn't make weight in camp and that doesn't necessarily define what kind of player they will be or what type of year they're going to have. Right now he's got a little work to do."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Anything is possible, but I don't think our odds in Vegas are probably very good to win the Super Bowl. I've been on teams here where we have been picked on the cover of Sports Illustrated to win it all and it didn't go that way, and we've had years with great success where we weren't favored. I like where we're at, personally. There aren't a lot of eyes on us nationally and I think that's good with the young team we have. There's not a lot of extra attention and I think we can use that to our advantage." -- Panthers OT Jordan Gross on the team's chances this season.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

After more than a month to contemplate how best to go about replacing injured Will linebacker Thomas Davis, the Panthers opened training camp with Jon Beason working at Davis' old spot and Dan Connor in the middle.

Although the Panthers could change plans at any time, it seems they're committed -- at least right now -- to moving Beason to that position while Davis tries to make a superhuman comeback from a second torn ACL torn in his right knee.

Beason made it clear his preference would be to remain in the middle, but that he's willing to do what's best for the greater good.

"The only reason I would prefer to be in the middle is because it is something I have done -- and I have done it at a high level -- and because I do have that comfort zone," said Beason, who has played MLB in the last two Pro Bowls for the NFC. "If it's going to help the team I want to do it."

However, Beason said it would be impossible for anyone to expect him to be as effective as Davis if the move becomes permanent.

"I think Thomas is a freak," Beason said. "He's special. Thomas is faster than me. Thomas can jump higher than me. Thomas is a better cover guy than me. Thomas hits really hard. He can do it all. He's a prototype Will linebacker and that is why he was so productive last year. The injury was unfortunate because he was just starting to come into his own."

PLAYER NOTES

--LB Brett Warren was cut to make room on the roster for QB Jimmy Clausen.

--WR Brandon LaFell, the team's third-round draft pick, has looked since camp opened and could wind up being the No. 2 receiver alongside Steve Smith if he can beat out Dwayne Jarrett.

--RDE Everette Brown has been working with the first team since Charles Johnson tweaked his hamstring the first day of training camp.

--MLB Dan Connor is working with the first team after Jon Beason was moved to the weak side linebacker spot.

--QB Jimmy Clausen opened camp as the third-team quarterback behind Matt Moore and Hunter Cantwell, but did take some reps with the second team in the latter portions of the morning practice. It's expected Clausen and Cantwell will continue rotating as the No. 2 quarterback throughout the preseason.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Brandon LaFell vs. Dwayne Jarrett for No. 2 receiver spot --

Jarrett has been a perennial disappointment and will be challenged by LaFell, who has looked very good in practice sessions since his arrival in camp. Kenny Moore could also figure into the battle if he continues to shine. However, Moore plays the same position as Steve Smith. The Panthers clearly prefer a bigger guy in that No. 2 spot.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Jimmy Clausen vs. Hunter Cantwell for No. 2 quarterback spot --

They've been splitting reps with the second team since the start of camp. Cantwell has a very strong arm while Clausen is accurate. So far both have looked pretty good.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: WR Kenny Moore -- The last thing Kenny Moore wanted to see was his best friend on the football team break an arm during the offseason. But Steve Smith's bad break could lead to a good break for Moore. With Smith on the sidelines Moore has been running with the first-team offense along with Dwayne Jarrett and has been exceptional through the first three days of camp.

"It's an opportunity for me to come in and make plays and show them that I can really do it with the starters," said Moore. "It's exciting for me."

Moore faces some tough competition this summer. You have to figure Smith, third-round draft picks Brandon LaFell and Armanti Edwards, and special teams standout Wallace Wright are locks to make the roster possibly leaving Moore, Jarrett, Charly Martin and Trent Guy to fight over one spot.

"I always believe in my ability and what I do," Moore said. "As a player and a receiver you always look and you think, 'Man we only kept four receivers at the end of last year.' That's always in your head. But at the end of the day you have to make plays. I believe my best should be good enough. If I continue to take advantage of my opportunities and come out and compete every day hopefully that will be enough for the coaches."

ROOKIE REPORT: Quarterback Jimmy Clausen has looked good, but said he wants to improve his accuracy ... Receiver Armanti Edwards has struggled to make the transition to pads and hasn't stood out ... Receiver Brandon LaFell is looking like a viable option as a starting receiver ... The Panthers are using Eric Norwood at linebacker, although they are working on plays that allow him to put his hand in the dirt and rush the pass ... Defensive end Greg Hardy has looked very impressive early on and could be a diamond in the rough.... Tony Pike is fourth on the depth chart at quarterback ... Too early to tell on seventh-round cornerbacks R.J. Stanford and Robert McClain.

INJURY REPORT: The Panthers opened camp with six players on the PUP list -- WR Steve Smith (arm), LB Thomas Davis (knee), DT Louis Leonard (knee), OT Jeff Otah (knee), RB Jonathan Stewart (foot) and OG Duke Robinson (out of shape).

Also, DE Charles Johnson hasn't practiced since the first day due to a tweaked hamstring.



What training camp moments stand out to you? Discuss inside the message boards.




PantherInsider.com Recommended Stories


Up Next


Wofford College fullback and Panther Insider correspondent Arsenio Parks continues his daily updates…

Tweets