Although a lot of things have gone south with the Carolina Panthers lately, one arrow is pointing straight north — the one attached to rookie wide receiver DJ Moore.
In the past two weeks, Moore has established himself as the team’s best wide-receiving target. I don’t know if he’s going to keep that designation or have a rookie drop-off, but right now he’s the Panthers’ best yardage-after-the-catch wideout since Steve Smith was telling defensive backs to “Ice up, son!” If his strong development continues, the Panthers will likely find it easier to part ways in the 2019 free-agency period with Devin Funchess.
Moore’s past two games have been a bit overshadowed because they have been in losing causes, but he went for seven receptions and 157 yards against Detroit and then eight for 91 against Seattle. Only 21 years old and in his first season after a standout career at Maryland, Moore has loads of potential.
“And he listens,” veteran receiver Jarius Wright said of Moore. “To have a rookie that listens the way he does and wants to learn? I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Moore had one significant early misstep as a Panther, when he was cited for driving at 113 mph on Interstate 77 in a 65-mph work zone in August.
So that was a big mistake, and it could have killed somebody.
Since then, though, Moore’s speed has only been in evidence on the field. Along with scintillating Charlotte Hornets rookie Miles Bridges, who really should get an invitation to the 2019 dunk contest on all-star weekend in the Queen City, the city of Charlotte now boasts two recent No. 1 picks who are very dynamic.
Against Tampa Bay, you’d have to think quarterback Cam Newton will be looking for Moore even more. I hope he does. Moore needs the ball. And I hope he gets it at least twice on reverses — I think that should be a part of Norv Turner’s offensive game plan every week.
▪ Talk about the very definition of mediocre: Through nearly 24 complete seasons, the Panthers’ all-time regular-season record stands at 189-189-1.
▪Prediction time: Thanks to the readers of this space who noticed that last week, for the first time in a long time, I predicted the exact score correctly in Seattle’s 30-27 win over Charlotte. You know the old saying about blind squirrels finding an occasional acorn. That pick moved my record this season to 8-3.
Ron Rivera teams have long had good success in Tampa, and I think Cam Newton vs. the Buccaneers’ very suspect defense will be a mismatch. Time for the three-game losing streak to end.
My prediction: Carolina 34, Tampa Bay 27.