CHARLOTTE – The NFC South is known for its wealth of wide receivers – and Carolina has two young ones emerging.
Panthers wide receivers DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel had career years and showed real signs of growth in 2019. Moore hauled in 87 catches for 1,175 yards and four touchdowns, and Samuel added 54 catches for 627 yards and six touchdowns.
Moore's numbers helped him finish ninth in the league in receiving yards, and he was on pace to end the year in the top five before he missed almost all of the Panthers final two games. When you take into account that the duo put up those numbers despite inconsistent quarterback play on a team that finished 5-11, those numbers are even more impressive.
"Personally, that's the best thing that happened for me," Moore said about his statistical success. "Seeing me and Curtis's growth this year was something else that was big. We're just going to keep on that uphill battle of being the next best duo out there."
After the first few weeks of the season, it didn't look like Moore and Samuel were destined for the breakout years they ended up having. Through the first seven games, Moore and Samuel were putting together modest numbers, but nothing special. Then, in Week 9 after being criticized by local media for a lack of production, the duo had somewhat of a coming out party against the Titans.
Moore recorded the first of four 100-yard games and kicked off a seven-game stretch over which he averaged 101.5 yards per game. For Samuel, it marked a return to form with 64 yards and a touchdown.
But it wasn't the media criticism that sparked their production this year. According to Moore and Samuel, it was all due to first-year wide receivers coach Jim Hostler.
"Hoss, he did everything he could," Moore explained. "From the little details to even the minor, minor, minor details to make sure we were ready week in and week out. From the time he came in at OTAs to now, there's been significant growth that both of us took. To have him in the room was something big this year."
Samuel admitted it took a little time to warm up to his new coach, a coaching veteran with nearly 20 NFL seasons under his belt.
"When he first came in, we didn't know what to expect," Samuel said. "We thought he was going to try to wild on us and be a hard coach and everything, but he understood us and how to coach us. I feel like we connected so well in the OTAs and through camp and everything that whenever he told us something we trusted him, and we believed everything he told us."
Part of the reason Hostler was able to garner so much rapport with the young receivers was because of his ability to teach the duo about more than just the X's and O's. Instead of solely focusing on the game plan each week, Moore said Hostler did a great job of teaching them how to improve across the board as wideouts.
"It was outside of the game plan," Moore said. "We never knew who was going to get the ball, but for him it was like everybody just know how to run your routes, be where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there, and just setting up the defender to get open.
"That was a major thing this year. You see we were both winning consistently, game in and game out and being available to the quarterback. We attribute that to him getting us ready."
When it came time to play on Sundays, the prep work made it easy for Moore and Samuel to perform like they did. And whether Hostler remains with the team going forward or not, those valuable lessons will stick with Carolina's young wide receiver duo.
View photos of some of the Panthers best scoring plays of the 2019 season.