According to Joe Person's Twitter account today (8/27):
Ron Rivera: Cam Newton will start again next week. Rivera still hasn't named him Week 1 starter. Only injury will keep Newton from starting.
So Rivera hasn't yet named the Panthers starting QB, but this seems rather telling. Wasn't sure whether he'd start Clausen for games 1 and 4 and Newton for 2 and 3 (it seemed like we might be headed that way), but now it looks like it's Newton from here on out, and probably into the regular season.
So what's behind this? From my perspective, a couple of things:
1. Coaching Staff Seeing Improvement with Newton. In week one, I think the coaching staff wanted to see how much Newton had improved from the start of training camp (Rivera was quoted a few places as saying that Newton's growth had been tremendous). Once they realized where he needed to improve, they wanted to get him more reps and tweak his performance after each game to keep moving him toward readiness for the regular season.
2. O-Line Woes. Many sports commentators have noticed the challenges the Panthers are having with the O- and D-Lines. It seems likely that the coaches are considering Newton as the better prospect in this regard because of his mobility, speed, and ability to make throws on the run. Newton has a decided advantage over Clausen here, both in maneuverability and size. At times, the Panthers QBs are dealing with a tiny or non-existent pocket and the coaching staff wants a playmaker in there.
3. Sick Upside for Newton. Mark Schlereth and Teddy Bruschi were on NFL Live on Friday after the Panthers loss to the Bengals, and the host asked them which QB they prefer: Dalton or Newton? Schlereth said that the 2 QBs were about even and Bruschi said he'd take Newton! They were, of course, looking at the entire preseason of both QBs, which is not especially different: Dalton has made about 10 more completions and 3 INTs, while Newton has close to 90 rushing yards (Dalton has negative rushing yards). Each has 1 TD. It's telling that 2 veteran players were not writing Newton off because of his performance against Cincinnati (unlike some Panthers fans); they both seemed to think that Newton can and will improve on his accuracy. Mention was also made of Newton's upside, which is generally agreed upon (by coaches, pundits, former players, and the like) to be exceptional.
So on Thursday, Newton starts at QB vs. the Steelers at home. Thoughts, predictions, opinions?
Edit: According to another Fan Post, Clausen missed practice today with a knee injury; this could be a contributing factor as well.