There has already been, and figures to be, more turnover on the Panthers’ roster when it comes to their current rebuild.
While Matt Rhule pieces together a roster full of players that fit his vision for advancing the team forward, one holdover that should be viewed as a key building block for the offense is wide receiver D.J. Moore.
Moore’s career is off to a fantastic start. After hauling in 55 receptions for 788 yards with two touchdowns as a rookie, Moore, Carolina’s first-round pick in 2018, grew as a sophomore and logged 87 receptions for 1,175 yards and four touchdowns.
In 2019, Moore became just the 17th receiving in NFL history to hit 1,100 receiving yards in a season before turning 23 years old and he accomplished the feat in 15 games. While the mark itself is outstanding, being able to be so productive despite only having starting quarterback Cam Newton for the first two games of the season then working with backup Kyle Allen makes it even more impressive. Moore was targeted 135 times in 2019, only 24 of those came from Newton.
Finding accuracy on targets has been a struggle for Moore. He is one of just 10 players in the NFL that received a catchable pass on 30 percent or lower of targets at least 20 yards down the field, according to Pro Football Focus. On overall targets in 2019, Moore was ranked 72nd in target accuracy.
Part of the reason Moore has been able to find top production in spite of lackluster quarterback play is how he maximizes his touches by creating yards for himself after the catch. Moore is averaging 5.6 career yards after catch. Measuring 6-foot and 210-pounds, Moore has a blend of speed, quickness, elusiveness and power to go with his dense frame. Those physical traits enable him to find production post-catch and win frequently in contested situations to help overcome not often receiving desirable ball placement on his targets.
Finding elite production in spite of below-average to poor quarterback play has become the norm for Moore. During his final season at Maryland in 2017, the Terrapins were down to their third-string quarterback early in the year and Moore was still the Big Ten’s only 1,000-yard receiver. While so many receivers have inflated production because they have the luxury of working with a top tier quarterback, that is far from the case with Moore.
Another dimension to Moore’s game is his ability to take handoffs and be used in creative ways. On 19 career rushes with the Panthers, Moore has racked up 212 yards.
Moore’s versatile skill set is perfect for newly hired offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s spread offense. Brady should be able to isolate Moore in man coverage while moving him across the formation to challenge the defense with horizontal spacing and give Moore opportunities to receive favorable touches where he can create offense. Pairing Moore with a dynamic vertical threat in Robby Anderson should help lift coverage and open up looks to get Moore involved. In two seasons in the NFL, Moore hasn’t had a target like Anderson to take attention away from him.
While Teddy Bridgewater may not be the long-term answer for Carolina at quarterback, he does represent a considerable upgrade for Moore to work with starting in 2020. Bridgewater is an accurate passer that doesn't often take chances but likes to distribute the football by slotting throws where spacing is advantageous for the offense. Moore should see an uptick in targets moving forward, not only because of how he meshes with Bridgewater but due to the spread style of offense Carolina is going to play under Brady.
Moore has found uncommon production at this stage of his career and is primed to take another step forward in 2020. Moore, a budding superstar, was ninth in the NFL receiving yards last season. He very well could find himself in the top five in 2020.