Greg Olsen’s absence leaves the Panthers in need of a weapon to torment defenses down the middle. D.J. Moore is the perfect guy to step in for Ron Rivera.
When the Panthers selected D.J. Moore in the first round of April’s NFL draft fans immediately expected him to be a big part of the offense. That hasn’t been the case through two weeks. Expect that to change beginning in Week 3.
To date, the rookie receiver only has one catch on the season. In all fairness, it was an impactful one. The one pass Moore caught against the Falcons resulted in a 51 yard touchdown. His dynamic ability to create a big play certainly caught the eye of his head coach.
In the aftermath of his team’s loss to the Falcons, Rivera told reporters that he intends to “put more” on the rookie’s plate. It’s safe to assume Moore will get a lot more action, and a lot more targets for this offense in the future.
Part of the explanation for Moore’s increased role is the simple progression for a rookie in the NFL. Wide receiver is a notoriously tough position to adjust to as a first year pro. Plenty of highly drafted wideouts take multiple seasons to truly grasp the nuances of NFL offenses.
That’s not the biggest reason Moore is in line for a heavier workload though. The injury to All-Pro tight end Greg Olsen has created a void in the team’s passing game. Specifically, the Panthers need someone who can threaten defenses down the seam. That’s a perfect area for Moore to exploit with his speed.
Look for the Panthers to deploy more three wide receiver sets with Olsen out the lineup. That’s not an indictment of the way Ian Thomas or Chris Manhertz played last week, but neither of those guys is ready to blow past safeties on a regular basis. Thomas is too raw and Manhertz lacks the athleticism to be a dynamic pass catcher.
Switching to three wide receiver sets means Moore is going to get a lot more action than the 17 snaps he played in Week 2. For the record, based on his big touchdown catch he was also the team’s highest rated receiver against the Falcons.
None of this means that Moore is ready to become the team’s leading receiver. That honor will remain with Devin Funchess for the foreseeable future. He lacks Moore’s ability to run past defenders, but he’s still capable of making big catches due to his size and catch radius.
It does, however, mean that Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright are going to see less of the football. Smith, in particular, has been a bit of a disappointment on the young season. There were whispers in training camp that he might not even make the Week 1 roster.
It shouldn’t have much of an effect on Christian McCaffrey either. He’s still going to see a ton of touches. If anything, Moore’s ability to threaten opposing secondaries down the field might give the dynamic running back more room to roam.
Giving Moore additional targets isn’t going to revolutionize the Panthers offense , but it should give everyone more room to operate. That should be a big boost for Cam Newton and company.