Panthers rookie Moore bids to overcome miscues

Carolina Panthers wide receiver DJ Moore (12) carries the ball as Washington Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (91) chases during the second half at FedEx Field on Sunday.Photo Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Rivera: "You got to know to protect the football, and I promise he’ll learn that."

Carolina Panthers rookie wide receiver DJ Moore endured a day he’d like to forget on Sunday, committing two fumbles that led to 10 first-half points in a 23-17 setback to the Washington Redskins.

Moore, who was selected with the 24th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, lost the ball on a punt return and again on a catch that led to a field goal.

“Just have to be aware,” the 21-year-old Moore said, “and hold onto the ball tighter.”

Moore likely will hear that and more from head coach Ron Rivera over the following week.

“Young guy, made a couple of mistakes,” Rivera said Monday. “He’s competing, trying to making things happen. Through experience he’ll learn when you’re in a lot of traffic, you got to keep the ball high and tight and the other hand on it.”

Moore’s first fumble came on a punt return after Washington failed to record a first down on its opening series. He fielded the punt at his own 21-yard line, but Jeremy Sprinkle forced it out and made the recovery.

The second fumble occurred early in the second quarter at the end of a 17-yard catch and run. Former Panthers cornerback Josh Norman punched the ball out of Moore’s grasp and linebacker Mason Foster recovered at the Washington 33-yard line.

“He was victimized by somebody who knows how to do it,” Rivera said.

Rivera noted that knowing when to go down is important.

“It’s an experience thing,” Rivera said, “because I promise you in college he probably broke a lot of those plays, which we did see on tape. But it’s also knowing that when you’re surrounded, a lot of population around you, you got to know to protect the football, and I promise he’ll learn that.

“The guy can be a valuable part of what we want to do on special teams and on offense.”

Moore earned Big Ten Receiver of the Year honors in 2017 after setting a single-season school record at Maryland for receptions with 80. He posted 1,033 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, becoming just the third wide receiver in school history to have a 1,000-yard receiving season.

The 6-foot, 210-pound Moore started 35 of the 37 games he played and finished fifth in school history in career receptions (146), sixth in receiving yards (2,027) and fourth in receiving touchdowns (17).

–Tight end Greg Olsen returned on Sunday after missing three games with a broken foot. He caught four passes for 48 yards against the Redskins, and head coach Ron Rivera thought he was in good shape physically the next day.

“Greg looked like he responded well to having played as much as he did,” Rivera said. “He played a little bit more than I thought he was going to. He looked a little tentative initially in the game, but you saw at the end of the game, he started getting heated up and playing really well.”

–Linebacker Thomas Davis played his first game Sunday after being suspended for the first four games by the NFL. He finished with six total tackles and two passes defensed.

“I thought he handled the man situations very well,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “He was running with some pretty doggone fast players and that’s T.D. He’s an explosive guy that can move.”

–Defensive tackle Kyle Love sustained a shoulder injury in Sunday’s game. It is unclear whether that will affect his status for the next game.

–Cornerback Donte Jackson suffered a shoulder injury against the Redskins. Whether it will affect his status for the next game is uncertain.

–Running back Christian McCaffrey caught seven passes for 46 yards on Sunday. He has a team-leading 34 receptions and 238 receiving yards for the season.