Sunday November 29th, 2015 2:25PM

Clausen's rookie season contrasts with Ryan's

By The Associated Press
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As if Jimmy Clausen needed another distraction with Carolina fans dreaming about drafting Stanford star Andrew Luck to replace him, here comes Matt Ryan to town.

Clausen is going through a typical rough season for a rookie quarterback in the NFL. Trouble is, Atlanta's Ryan is a reminder it doesn't always go bad when a youngster is behind center.

"I can't speak on the behalf of Jimmy and the situation there but I know the situation I came into my rookie year," said Ryan, whose Falcons visit the Panthers Sunday. "I had a lot of guys around me that played extremely well both offensively, defensively and on special teams and that helped."

Ryan burst onto the scene as the No. 3 overall pick from Boston College in 2008, throwing 16 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions as the Falcons went 11-5. Ryan has since established himself as one of the league's top QBs and this year has helped lead Atlanta (10-2) to the best record in the NFC.

"We knew there would be a learning curve but it really got accelerated once Matt got the opportunity to go out there and play," Atlanta coach Mike Smith said. "We had some pieces in place around him to allow him to go out there and have success."

Clausen doesn't have that luxury playing for the league-worst and talent-deprived Panthers (1-11).

Forced into the job by Matt Moore's struggles and then his season-ending shoulder injury, the second-round pick from Notre Dame has thrown just one touchdown pass - more than two months ago - and six interceptions. His passer rating of 55.3 ranks last in the league among eligible QBs.

It's left the Panthers in position - if they lose the final four games - to get the No. 1 pick in the draft with perhaps the chance to draft Luck, if he declares for the draft.

"That's not really my focus, to be honest," Clausen said of all the Luck talk in Charlotte. "I'm not paying attention to what's being said on the outside. Just trying to get better each and every day and trying to get a win on Sunday."

Clausen may be getting a raw deal. With a struggling offensive line, no experienced No. 2 receiver and an up-and-down running game, there is little around him to make his job easier and perhaps effectively evaluate his ability as the Panthers' long-term answer at QB.

"That's for you guys to judge," Clausen said to a group of reporters. "I'm just trying to get better each and every day and each and every game."

Clausen has spent a lot of time watching Ryan in hopes of doing that. They first met in Clausen's freshman year at Notre Dame when the senior Ryan threw for 291 yards and two scores in BC's 27-14 victory.

"He's done a great job coming into the league and playing really well real early," Clausen said. "He's one of the guys I like watching on tape. ... He's a heck of a quarterback and I love watching him play."

Ryan has thrown 21 touchdown passes this season and has led six game-winning scoring drives in the fourth quarter or overtime to help the Falcons to six straight wins.

"The more experience you have the more things do slow down and the more clearly you think out on the field," Ryan said. "I'm still in that process, but for me I feel a lot more comfortable than I did my rookie season and certainly more comfortable than last year."

Ryan said it took "four, five and six games" as a rookie starter to get comfortable.

"Your routine starts to kick in and you feel settled in your preparation and those types of things," Ryan said. "When you start to get those things under control, I think that allows you to go out there and play more efficiently."

While Clausen has nowhere near the success of Ryan, he has shown signs of improvement. He had perhaps his best game of the season in a 24-23 loss to Cleveland Nov. 28 in which John Kasay hit the left upright on a game-winning field goal attempt as time expired.

Last week, Clausen led the Panthers on a game-opening touchdown drive and a 14-0 lead before regressing in the second half. His interception return for a touchdown - his second of the season - sparked Seattle's streak of 31 unanswered points and dropped Clausen to 0-6 as a starter.

Getting that elusive first victory would not only boost his confidence, but perhaps drop the Panthers out of the first spot in the draft order, out of the Luck sweepstakes and possibly cement Clausen's future in Carolina.

"I'm trying to do everything I can to do that," Clausen said. "Trying to do everything I can to get us a victory."

-- NOTES: LB Jon Beason (knee) missed his second straight practice Thursday, a concern for a Carolina defense that's been struggling. ... CB Chris Gamble (hamstring), CB Captain Munnerlyn (shoulder), LG Travelle Wharton (toe) and LB Nic Harris (head) also missed practice. ... LB Jason Williams, RB Tyrell Sutton (ankle), S Marcus Hudson (ankle) and DT Ed Johnson (knee) all practiced in full after being limited on Wednesday.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Dogs fall to UCF in Liberty Bowl
Latavius Murray scored on a 10-yard touchdown run with 9:01 left, and Central Florida held on to beat Georgia 10-6 Friday in the Liberty Bowl and cap the best season in school history with the program's first postseason victory.
11:56PM ( 4 years ago )
Abraham wants the Atlanta defense to finish plays
John Abraham is carrying around visual proof that the Atlanta Falcons' defense isn't good enough. The four-time Pro Bowl defensive end had just received a video clip of his first career interception, and Abraham picked up his cell phone to offer it as evidence Friday
11:32PM ( 4 years ago )
Manuel, Seminoles hold off Gamecocks
EJ Manuel threw a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to stop a South Carolina rally and lead Florida State to a 26-17 victory over the turnover-plagued Gamecocks in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Friday night.
11:23PM ( 4 years ago )
Gladiators Win Second Straight; Beats Wheeling 5-2
The Gwinnett Gladiators picked up their second consecutive win against the Wheeling Nailers, 5-2 Wednesday night at the Arena at Gwinnett Center

10:22PM ( 4 years ago )
Gladiators Beat Wheeling 4-3 in Shootout
The Gwinnett Gladiators snapped an 11-game winless streak Tuesday night in front of 5,057 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center with a 4-3 shootout win over the Wheeling Nailers
11:10PM ( 4 years ago )
Crosby extends points streak, Pens beat Thrashers
Sidney Crosby might be creating an intriguing subplot for the Winter Classic: He's riding one of the NHL's longest scoring streaks in the last 20 seasons.
10:23PM ( 4 years ago )
Professional Sports
Georgia's Richt stepping down following 'mutual' decision
Georgia coach Mark Richt is stepping down after 15 seasons in what is being called a "mutual" decision...
By AccessWDUN Staff
1:05PM ( 1 hour ago )
Run game, defense helps Dogs seal victory over Jackets, 9-win campaign
Mark Richt trotted over to a corner of Bobby Dodd Stadium, where the Georgia band played and the red-clad faithful had nothing but cheers for the embattled coach.
11:59PM ( 14 hours ago )
Watson puts up 4 TDs and No. 1 Clemson moves to 12-0 with 37-32 win over South Carolina
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Deshaun Watson isn't giving up on Clemson's step-by-step approach, not when it's worked so well. Watson had another big day, running for three touchdowns and passing for a fourth...
11:58PM ( 14 hours ago )
Boys basketball: Vikings bounce back from loss with win over Paideia
Jacquen Hopkins led four players in double figures with 14 points as East Hall beat Paideia 68-54 Saturday in the Hoopsgiving Classic at Holy Innocents High School.
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:57PM ( 14 hours ago )
Girls basketball: East Hall knocks off Alabama state champs in Hoopsgiving Classic
The East Hall girls knocked off defending Class AAAAAAA Alabama state champion Huntsville 65-37 Saturday in the Hoopsgiving Classic at Holy Innocents High School.
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:50PM ( 14 hours ago )