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DJ Moore: Doing the big things, and all the little ones

DJ Moore

CHARLOTTE — DJ Moore is on a bit of a roll.

And that's only partly to do with his receiving numbers.

The Panthers wide receiver stood out again in Sunday's loss to the Cowboys, the latest in a string of standout performances.

But as Panthers head coach Matt Rhule watched the tape, the things that impressed him weren't the eight catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns.

"DJ has been excellent," Rhule said, brightening at the mention. "Go look at the play where Brandon Zylstra catches the ball on fourth-and-8 (in the fourth quarter). I was inspired watching DJ Moore sprinting, running 4.3 down the right sideline to maybe go, probably not, but to maybe go make a block to spring Zylstra.

"When your best players play that hard, you're always going to have a chance."

Rhule went on about the little things Moore has been doing, saying: "I love what he does without the football."

Rhule detailed Moore's ability to leave huddles early in practice, because he's so aware of down and distance and situations, that when he hears personnel groupings and formations he knows what play is coming. Rhule talked about his blocking, hoping it rubs off on players such as rookie Terrace Marshall Jr. (who didn't block on play on which Moore might have scored).

"I say all that; I don't know if people, even on our own team, recognize how much of a pro he is," Rhule said. "That's why he's having so much success."

Of course, those who have known Moore for years aren't surprised.

He was stout enough in college that he was in linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr.'s lifting group at Maryland — "He's one of those strong guys," Carter said with a note of respect.

"He's a receiver in a running back's body," Carter added. "When he catches the ball, he can make a lot of things happen, that's his best attribute."

Moore did that Sunday, bouncing off Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons after a thunderous hit, somehow keeping his balance and continuing downfield.

Moore winced when asked about it afterward, saying he remembered: "Hurt. That's all I can tell you."

"I know I kept my balance, but that's like a hard hit," Moore said. "I attribute that to great balance and God. Just helping me to stay up on that one."

Carter laughed when asked about it, saying it was nothing new.

"I've seen him make those plays since we were in college," Carter said. "It's nothing new to me. He caught a screen when we played Nebraska back in the day, probably took it back to the house for 80 yards, probably bounced off three guys. It's not really anything new to me when I see DJ do those things. I expect that from him. He's a great football player."

Like Carter, Rhule said that Moore had the traits that would have made him a runner in a previous era.

"I always laugh; if he was born in my generation, he'd have been a tailback, with his body balance and speed. Now he's a wideout in today's football. . . .

"He's really a special player."

And in addition to all those intangible things, Moore has the stats to back it up.

Sunday was his second straight 100-yard game, and the 11th of his career.

He's tied for second in the NFL with 30 receptions (trailing Green Bay's Davante Adams, who has 31), and he's fourth in the league with 398 receiving yards (behind Deebo Samuel, Tyreek Hill, and Cooper Kupp).

The Panthers need that kind of production in the absence of Christian McCaffrey, though Moore said he tries not to put a heavier burden on himself because of the situation.

"No, it is not consciously on my mind," he said. "We all know that 22 wasn't out there today. So, everybody had to step up. Just be really hard but take it to the next level."

That's what Moore is doing. In more ways than the obvious.

View the best photos from Carolina's loss to Dallas on Sunday.

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