DJ Moore Hoping For Bounce-Back Homecoming Game

October 20, 2018 - 8:30 pm

Panthers rookie WR DJ Moore has had an interesting rookie season so far in Carolina. 

Despite being the top WR taken in April's draft, the former Maryland Terrapin has been buried on the depth chart in this Panthers offense and has seen other first-year WRs like Falcons WR Calvin Ridley make plays with more opportunities coming their way in other potent offenses around the NFL. 

Meanwhile, for Moore, he has done the best he can to prove why he was the top wideout in this class in his limited chances. 

Ron Rivera and the Panthers coaching staff have expressed their desire to get their first round pick to get him the ball more to make the most of his explosiveness. 

Unfortunately in the 23-17 loss to the Washington Redskins in Week 6, Moore fumbled the ball twice - once on a punt return and another after a long gain trying to fight for extra yards - which to a young rookie just fives games into an NFL career, can sometimes be a kiss of death and a huge confidence killer. 

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But Moore had the support of both his coaches and his teammates this week in practice - most notably his quarterback Cam Newton. 

"We good. We are good. Ain't no need to worry about whatever hasn't happened. We don't need to change nothing. We just have to sure up some things."

"He's a person at practice that does everything the coaches ask him to do. And more. He just got the back luck of the draw."

Newton reminded reporters and critics of the Panthers rookie that everyone who has had success in this league has gone through the struggles that Moore had a week ago. 

It's just on Moore to make steps ahead and prove that the mistakes won't repeat themselves. 

"Hell...I mean I fumbled! I threw an interception!", Newton pointed out. "But, at the end of the day, you've just got to learn to keep moving forward. And I think that's what he showed in the game, and I know that's he's planning on the same thing moving forward."

Fellow Terrapin Torrey Smith agreed with his quarterback. 

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of him, the way he continued to fight after that,” Smith said after Sunday's loss. “It shows a lot about him. It’s important for his development long-term to experience those things and to overcome it.”

Moore appreciated all the support he got though in the locker room from the veterans around him - especially from the veterans like Jarius Wright and Damiere Byrd, who acted as his body guard entourage this week in the locker room as the media approached him. 

"Whoever has carried the ball before has gone through something like that at some point, " Moore stated this week. "That's just helped me get through it." 

For Moore - a Philadelphia native - he'll have that opportunity to go back home and shut up critics in front of a home crowd. 

And he's craving that opportunity more than anyone this week in the locker room. 

Ironically though, despite not growing up an Eagles fan growing up in the streets of the city of Brotherly Love - calling himself a "nobody fan" this week- there reportedly will be some die-hard Eagles fans cheering him on Sunday at 1 pm ET in Lincoln Financial Field. 

"Just to be back in Philly this week for real - just cause I haven't been back in four or five years - just to be back in my hometown is going to be fun."

Getting The Run Game Going Key For Panthers

Despite the Panthers only rushing for 81 yards against the Redskins in their 23-17 loss last week, the Panthers are still a team wanting to run the football. 

They currently rank 4th in the NFL in rushing yards per game with 139.4 per contest and are 6th in yards per attempt (4.98). 

In six of Ron Rivera's seven seasons running the Carolina Panthers, Carolina has a top-10 rushing attack and with the hire of Norv Turner as offensive coordinator, the expectation is that this team will continue to run the ball in any way it can. 

Cam approves of the rookie’s swag -- pic.twitter.com/FeInIhVOkV

— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) October 20, 2018

Sunday's game will provide a very difficult challenge for this Panthers backfield - as the Eagles have only allowed one player to rush for more than 50 yards against them this season - Saquon Barkley. 

They currently are 2nd in the NFL in rushing defense only allowing 79.8 yards on the ground. 

This Eagles defense held Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Stewart and Fozzy Whittaker to one-rushing yard a year ago in Carolina's 28-23 loss to the Super Bowl champs on Thursday Night Football, and with the additions of Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata on this Philadelphia defensive line, there are a lot of questions that need to be asked for the Carolina backfield. 

"The big part about is, 'are you winning the battle up front?', Rivera said in his press conference this week on Thursday. "I think that helps to begin with. Secondly, 'what else is working?'. There's a lot of things we try to consider."

Falling behind two scores early against the Redskins last week, the Panthers felt like they were dug in such a hole that they had to abandon the run game to get out of it to get back in the game. 

Which Rivera said is not who they are offensively. 

The Panthers will likely have to involve quarterback Cam Newton in the run game to get against going against this Eagles front seven. 

Newton had 71 yards on 11 carries a year ago at home against Philadelphia, and is going for his 5th straight game on the road with 40+ rushing yards. 

"They're a good team defensively, " per Rivera. "I think whether they're rushing well or covering well, they do a lot of things well together. I think it's a good group of guys that are physical. They play fast...they do a really good job."

It will be interesting to see how the Panthers draw up schemes to limit Eagles' Fletcher Cox, who dominated RG Trai Turner a year ago.

Cox had six tackles and a sack in their 34-13 victory over the Giants last Thursday night and has two sacks in his last three home games. 

But Rivera is confident in Turner bouncing back from his performance a year ago as well as having a lot of trust in the partnership he and right tackle Taylor Moton have built so far this season.

Center Ryan Kalil will also be in the lineup this time for Carolina, which wasn't the case a year ago as Kalil was battling a neck injury. 

"I think we're really formidable across the offensive line, and I really like our right side. I think those guys have really started to build a rapport, and when you have that kind of communication, it really opens up a lot of things for you."

Which Tight End Will Have The Bigger Impact? 

Sunday provides an opportunity for football fans to watch two of the best tight ends in the game in Zach Ertz and Greg Olsen. 

Ertz leads the Eagles in receiving with 480 yards on 48 catches (good for 2nd in the NFL) through six games, including 265 yards and two TDs in the last three weeks. 

He had two scores a year ago in Carolina, and is a huge safety blanket for Carson Wentz in this Eagles offense. 

Half of his catches have gone for first downs as well. 

Since 2013, Olsen and Ertz rank 4th (4,273 yards) and 6th overall (4,144) in total receiving yards respectively. 

First 81 career games:

Zach Ertz: 369 catches, 4,144 yards

Tony Gonzalez: 342 catches, 4,079 yards

Tony Gonzalez: 342 catches, 4,079 yards

Zach Ertz: 369 catches, 4,144 yards

First 81 career games:

— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) October 12, 2018

Ertz has caught 10+ passes in a game eight times in his short NFL career, which only trails Tony Gonzalez (15) and Jason Witten (12) in NFL history. 

Meanwhile for Olsen, who missed last year's matchup with a foot injury, had a lot of success in his last game against the Eagles - catching six balls for 119 yards in a 2014 contest. 

Since his rookie year in 2007, Olsen is second in the league in both receptions (645) and yards (7,735) among league tight ends. 

Panthers LB Thomas Davis, who made his return after a four-game suspension last week, knows the task he has at hand in defending Ertz. 

"Ertz has been tough to defend since he came into the league for a lot of guys," Davis said. "He definitely presents a different challenge when you look at the tight end position. They find ways to get him the ball, and he's a very sure-handed guy."

"He'll be a big challenge for us this weekend, but we're looking forward to it."

Does Cam Need To Throw The Ball Down The Field For Panthers To Win? 

After the 23-17 loss to the Redskins and with quarterback Cam Newton missing the final three plays of the game throwing down the field, questions continued to be asked about Newton's ability to throw the deep ball, and how much of a concern it truly will be for this Panthers offense. 

It was an expectation at the beginning of the season that there would be a lot of success down the field for Carolina with Norv Turner coming in to run this offense.

Newton also came into the season healthy after missing last off-season with shoulder surgery and with former Eagle Torrey Smith coming over in a trade, the team was expected to take shots down the field often. 

But so far, Newton has only completed two balls that have traveled 20 yards-or-plus down the field. 

Newton was a little confrontational this week with reporters this week when asked about accessing this downfield passing attack; especially when this Panthers team is 3-2 on the year and was only several plays from being undefeated.

"We're not successful right now? We just want to execute. When we get into the logistical things of football, and what the defense is doing, you can't just do down and chuck the football downfield...that's not what good teams and good offenses do."

 Newton said his job is to read the field and move the ball the way the defense presents opportunities for him to do so. 

 "My job is to execute the given gameplan that Coach calls, and that's what I plan on doing."

Norv Turner echoed those same statements. 

"It's not all on the quarterback. Putting all of it together is what we're trying to do."

"We're continuing to work on becoming a complete passing game," the Panthers offensive coordinator said. "I think we've improved in that immediate area - those 15-to-25 yard plays. I think we've made great strides in that area." 

"We don't let the defense dictate to us - we dictate to the defense," Newton added. 

But Turner did say that if the ball isn't traveling deep down the field in the air, the big plays HAVE to come otherwise it's going to be a long year for them offensively. 

"You need to create explosive plays. The ball doesn't have to travel 50 yards."

Newton said in comparison with other successful offenses around the league; the only numbers that matter to him are...wins. 

"I wonder if the wins and losses are exploding," Newton stated. "I've seen quarterbacks have 100 yards and they blow them out. I've seen quarterbacks have 500 yards and they get blown out."

"Who cares about stats? The most meaningful stat in all of sports is win and loss. Straight up."

Notables: 

Carolina is 4-7 in their history against the Eagles and 2-4 in Philadelphia, but the two teams have alternated wins and losses in the last four games. 

The longest winning streak was Philly's three-game stretch between 2004-2009. 

The Panthers have not lost back-to-back games going back to October 22nd, 2017 in which they lost consecutive weeks to the Eagles and the Chicago Bears on the road. 

Philadelphia will be the third straight Super Bowl champion the Panthers will face the next season going back to 2016 (Denver, New England, and Philadelphia). The Panthers have also faced the NFC Champion every year going back a decade to 2008. 

 

 

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