The Panthers fell to 0-3 for the second consecutive season on Sunday in rookie QB Jimmy Clausen's first start. He didn't provide the spark Carolina was hoping for and made three turnovers in the 20-7 loss to Cincinnati, but Clausen is hardly the Panthers' only problem.
The team is sorting through issues on both sides of the ball as it prepares for Week Four, and observers are wondering when Carolina will get its first win with tough games against the Saints and Bears up next before a Week Six bye.
The PFW Spin
The Panthers will line up against DE Julius Peppers for the first time ever in 13 days, when the Bears visit Charlotte in Week Five, but it's already clear how much Carolina misses him.
Through three games, the Panthers' defensive line has done fairly well vs. the run. Its pass rush has not been as effective, though, although it produced its first sack on Sunday when DE Charles Johnson took down QB Carson Palmer for a loss of 10 yards.
The team's only other sack this season was made by MLB Dan Connor in Week One. The Panthers' D-line has just five quarterback hits, and it's not as if their opponents thus far — the Giants, Buccaneers and Bengals — have Pro Bowlers up and down their offensive lines.
It's true that too much can be made about sack numbers — no team has more sacks than the Lions this season (11), yet they are 0-3 and are ranked 27th in passing yards allowed. Carolina made Palmer look bad, holding him to 195 passing yards while picking him off twice. But the Panthers, who are ranked 13th in passing yards allowed, are not sending a strong enough message to opposing quarterbacks while Clausen, and Matt Moore before him, have taken a beating playing behind a porous offensive line.
The Panthers are hoping that rookies Greg Hardy and Eric Norwood and second-year veteran Everette Brown will develop into quality pass rushers, but they're off to a slow start. Brown has made just 2½ sacks in 18 games since Carolina traded a first-round pick to move up in the second round of the 2009 draft to select him.