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Moore takes on lead(ership) role

Posted May 24, 2010

Almost every day, Monday through Thursday, since the Panthers' offseason strength and conditioning program began on March 15, a maroon Ford F-150 pick-up truck with an Oregon State license plate frame has been the first vehicle parked along the sidewalk leading to the entrance of Bank of America Stadium.

That car belongs to quarterback Matt Moore, and his early arrival is just one way he has set an example since becoming Carolina's projected starting quarterback. He has eagerly embraced the heightened leadership role he has undertaken.

"It's something that I like, and being a quarterback it comes with the position," Moore said. "The whole leadership thing is being here, getting your work in, being accountable and working with guys and moving in a positive direction. Those are the things I've been trying to do."

After starting the last three games of his rookie season in 2007 and the final five games in 2009 and leading the Panthers to a 6-2 record in those eight starts, Moore is preparing to direct the offense for an entire campaign.

"For a young guy thrown into the situation he was last year, he showed a lot of poise. He never let the pressure get to him," said quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer.

"He has a good feel for things - a sense of timing, a sense of anticipation. He's athletic enough to maneuver, get himself out of trouble and keep plays alive. At the same time, he has enough arm strength and poise in the pocket to stand in there and make the down the field throws. He does a lot of things very well. He has become much more of a student of the game and has jumped into trying to grow from a mental standpoint, which I think experience will only help him in that regard."

In addition to being one of the first players in the weight room each morning, Moore's offseason routine has included throwing more passes to his teammates on the practice field and spending more time studying film.

"I've been focusing on little things in the offseason. There are a lot of things in our passing game that we're focusing on," Moore said. "Working with guys during practice and then finding some individual time and getting some things ironed out. Staying on top of the P's and Q's in the quarterback room - film study, stuff like that."

The offense revolves around the quarterback, who is the communication center. From calling the play in the huddle to making audibles at the line of scrimmage, the signal caller is constantly communicating with the other 10 players on the field whether it is with his voice, hands or eyes. Improving communication is one area that Moore has worked extremely hard at this offseason, not just with his offensive teammates but with the defensive players, too, because how the offense plays can also affect the defense.

"That's a barrier I wanted to knock down quickly. Talking to guys, asking questions, talking in meetings, working things out," Moore said. "The offseason conditioning is great for something like that because you intermingle with those guys and there is a lot of chatter and competition, which has been good. Those guys see me working and I see those guys working, and it builds a good foundation."

The one group that Moore has worked with the most time is the receiving corps. Timing is an essential element to any successful pass play - the way quarterback reads the defense, the way the receiver runs the route. Moore has spent time in meetings and on the practice field perfecting these nuances with his wide receivers. Even at the Panthers three-day post-draft minicamp, Moore ran up to his receivers after a pass attempt or on the sideline and discussed why a play did or did not work.

"There are certain routes and certain situations where guys need to know things. Maybe they have a little more time. Emphasize that they can sell the top of the route a little more. Let them know that I am working this side first and then coming back to them," Moore said. "Then we also talk a lot about ball placement on routes, where to expect the ball. 'Get your head around quick. The ball is going to be coming at you.' Doing things like that that, just trying to make it better."

Moore's ascension to being a team leader has been a natural progression. It is not like he is a free agent or rookie who joined the team this offseason. He has been building rapport with his teammates for the last three seasons. He threw his first touchdown pass to wide receiver Steve Smith in 2007. Wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett, center Ryan Kalil, tight end Dante Rosario and he are all from the same rookie class.

"I think last year was an example of that," Moore said. "Guys saw me play. I'm not some stranger. I've been here. There is some credibility to what I say with these guys. We've formed those relationships already. There's no kind of awkward moment anymore. We've laid the foundation here the past couple of years. It's good. Everybody's pretty secure, and we're ready to move forward and get things going."

In Moore's five starts at the end of last season, he had the Panthers moving forward - guiding the team to four wins and playing with more confidence each outing. He established single-game highs with 33 attempts, 21 completions and 299 yards versus Minnesota (12/20/09), three touchdowns against the Vikings and at the New York Giants (12/27/09), and a 75.0 completion percentage and 139.8 quarterback rating at the Giants (12/27/09).

"The biggest thing, and I really noticed it at the end of last year, is that the game has slowed down for me, which is good. In '07 everything was so fast. Now I'm doing a lot better pre-snap determining coverages and having a good idea what's going to happen on that play. I think a lot of that goes into preparation," Moore said. "You grow when you learn how to study and learn how to prepare and then follow through in the game. I really noticed that late last year. It's being ready for the situation and being right when you need to be."

And Moore is right where he needs to be.