CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The Panthers want more out of third-year receiver D.J. Moore.
Moore is coming off a solid season a year ago with 87 receptions for 1,175 receiving yards and four touchdowns, averaging 13.5 yards per catch despite missing the last seven quarters of the season with a concussion.
He was second on the team in receptions behind All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey who had 116, but new coach Matt Rhule believes Moore is capable of even more production this season under innovative offensive coordinator Joe Brady.
“D.J. has to take another step this year and be that dominant, physical go-to receiver on third-and-5 that you’re going to, and in the red zone that you’re going to,” Rhule said. “Take the best matchup of the other team’s best corner and just dominate it. That’s the step that he has to take.”
That has Moore fired up.
“He is just challenging me to be the best player I can be on the field,” Moore said of Rhule’s comments. “I’m just going to accept that challenge and just run with it and try to be the best me and the best receiver on the field that I can be for this team.”
Rhule has spent the past three seasons at Baylor, but has a history with Moore.
When Rhule was the head coach at Temple, he offered Moore a scholarship. Moore chose to go to Maryland instead. Now they’re finally together and Moore is looking to break through as a special receiver in a division full of Pro Bowl pass catchers such as New Orleans’ Michael Thomas, Atlanta’s Julio Jones and Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans.
“Whenever you don’t make something, it always gives you a chip (on your shoulder),” Moore said of being left off the NFC Pro Bowl 2019 squad.
“Even the year before, (Christian McCaffrey) didn’t make the Pro Bowl. So when I see that, he had a big chip. So, of course, it is always going to be a big chip when you don’t make something that you think you should make. So it’s just going to make you go hard for the next year.”
Cornerback Eli Apple faced Moore the past two seasons while playing for the New Orleans Saints. He saw Moore catch eight passes for 126 yards and two TDs last season - one of his four 100-yard receiving games in 2019.
He said Moore has big-time playmaking potential.
“D.J. is fast, and it seems like he’s getting faster every year,” said Apple, who is now with the Panthers. “And he’s gotten very technical with his routes. He’s going to be a great receiver. He already is, to me.”
Moore is excited about playing with Teddy Bridgewater, who replaces Cam Newton as the team’s starting quarterback. Moore played with three different QBs last season after Newton went down with a season-ending foot injury in Week 2.
He refers to Bridgewater as “a cool dude” who has a “real friendly personality” that draws players to him.
With McCaffrey, the continued development of receiver Curtis Samuel and the addition of receiver Robby Anderson from the Jets, Moore thinks he will get freed up to make even more plays this season.
“When you have multiple weapons - from me, to Curtis, to Robby, to Seth (Roberts), to Ian (Thomas) to even CMAC in the running back room, it is going to be crazy that if somebody just hones in on one player, it is going to be opening up other players. … Between me, Curtis and Robby, you’ve got three speed guys.” Moore said.
Moore joked that he’s probably the slowest of Carolina’s top three receivers.
“Those two (Samuel and Anderson) can take it to the house at any time,” Moore said.
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