Wide receiver DJ Moore, the Carolina Panthers’ first-round draft choice this year, has not been used much on offense this season. However, he made a splash when he was utilized on Sunday.
His 51-yard pass reception for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter of the Panthers’ 31-24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons was his first NFL reception. Fans are now wondering why the rookie from Maryland, who was the 24th overall selection in the draft, is not being used more.
Coach Ron Rivera agrees, based on his comments in his press conference on Monday.
“I think we’ve got to put more on his plate,” Rivera said. “Just looking at some of the things that we’ve done, things that we’ve done in practice, I think that we can stress him more and ask more of him.”
Moore played just 17 snaps on offense against the Falcons, and he played just 17 offensive snaps against Dallas in the Panthers’ 16-8 victory over the Cowboys in the opener.
Moore was not targeted at all in the opener, but he did have one run for 3 yards.
He had one rushing attempt against the Falcons that went for 7 yards, and he was targeted just twice as a receiver.
But his one reception was the biggest play of the game. He took a a 20-yard pass from Cam Newton and turned it into a 51-yard touchdown reception. That score brought the Panthers within a touchdown, but they could not score again.
The Panthers have asked Moore to fill a lot of roles, which is why he has been used sparingly so far.
He is learning all three wide receiver spots. He is also being used to handle kickoff and punt returns as well as playing gunner on run coverage.
He played 19 snaps on special teams on Sunday and returned one kickoff for 26 yards and two punts for 9 yards. In the opener against Dallas, Moore had one punt return for 15 yards.
“That is one of the factors that’s probably taken away from some of his opportunities on offense,” Rivera said. “When you lose the guys that you’ve lost whether it be Damiere (Byrd) or Curtis (Samuel), the fallback is to have DJ do more.”
Rivera expects Moore to be a bigger part Carolina’s offensive game plan going forward.
“He’s earning opportunities,” Rivera said, “and I think those opportunities will continue to grow for him.”
–Newton was not seriously injured when he took a big hit from Damontae Kazee in the second quarter, and the Panthers quarterback stayed in the game.
Kazee was ejected.
“It’s sending a message to the players that, again, shots to the head of other players are not going to be tolerated,” Rivera said. “It’s all part of the game and it’s got to be taken out of the game. It can’t be accepted.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that Kazee will not be suspended.
–Falcons running back Tevin Coleman rushed for 107 yards on Sunday, ending the Panthers’ streak of 21 consecutive games without a 100-yard rusher.
As a team, Atlanta rushed for 170 yards, the most given up by Carolina since 2016.
“It was a little bit of physical nature, a little bit of mental nature,” Rivera said. “A couple times not knowing how to fit or where to fit and a couple times playing behind, playing a little lazy. We can’t accept that and we won’t tolerate that.”
–QB Cam Newton was the team’s leading rusher on Sunday with 42 yards. He now has 100 rushing yards for the season after running for 58 in the opener.
–RB Christian McCaffrey was the team’s leading receiver on Sunday with 14 catches for 102 yards. He has 20 catches for 147 yards for the season. He has 87 rushing yards in two games on 18 attempts.
–LB Luke Kuechly had eight solo tackles on Sunday after having 11 in the opener. He added two assists in the opener, giving him 21 total tackles.
–WR Devin Funchess had seven receptions for 77 yards on Sunday. He had three catches for 41 yards in the opener.
–RB C.J. Anderson, acquired in the offseason, ran the ball three times for 31 yards on Sunday. In the first two games, he had 10 rushing attempts for 66 yards, an average of 6.6 yards per attempt.