CHARLOTTE — DJ Moore has done everything he can to be consistent, even if nothing around him has been.
And the Panthers wide receiver enters his fourth season with the same goal he's carried since his rookie year.
"Me personally, I just want to take it to the next level," Moore said when asked about specific targets for 2021. "Every year you have to get better and better, just to be playing in the league. For me, I just want to take it to the next level."
Considering his performance last season, and considering what he's had to work with since entering the league, the consistent progress has been impressive.
Moore walked into the NFL in a comfortable spot for a big-play receiver, drafted to the same team as former MVP Cam Newton. Of course, that was Newton's last healthy season here, but seeing them connect on an 82-yard pass against the Lions that year seemed like an indicator of the big things that were possible. But when injuries sidelined Newton, Moore played with Kyle Allen, before last year with Teddy Bridgewater, and now he's making another change to Sam Darnold.
Through it all, Moore has steadily become more dangerous as a playmaker, and was third in the NFL in yards per reception (18.2) last season.
He finished the year with more receiving yards than in 2019 (1,193 to 1,175), despite catching 21 fewer passes than the year before (66 and 87), underscoring that big-play ability.
But other than changing his number to the single digit 2, you haven't heard much from Moore this offseason, as he doesn't always fit into the big-personality receiver stereotype.
"Being in the spotlight, some people are always on, and some people are laid back and know when it's time to go," Moore said. "At no point in my career have I been overly excited about something, or too hard on myself about something. I always stay even-keeled, no matter what, because you can't get too big in moments, and you can't get too low when bad stuff happens. That's where the even-keeledness comes in."
It also puts him in contrast with the last big-name receiver to work here. Moore has gotten to know Steve Smith Sr. since coming to Charlotte, and the two have talked about the craft of the position. They couldn't be more different, personality-wise, as Smith always burns hot. That doesn't mean they can't share traits on the field, such as their ability to create big plays quickly.
Moore said of all the things Smith has emphasized to him over the years, knowing when to be intense has been at the top of the list.
"Just to be hard-working," Moore said. "He's always talked about going into practice like it was a game. Always be professional, and always have a dog mentality when you get out there.
"Whether you have a big personality like him or a laid-back vibe like I've got, you've still got to have that dog when you step out there."
And given his performance, Moore's also entering the territory that Smith occupied for so long — the target. While the Panthers had a diverse passing game last year (in the absence of the injured Christian McCaffrey), Moore proved he can be a lead dog, and hopes to continue that this year.
Whether others consider him as such doesn't faze him.
"I would hope so, and I think so," he replied when asked if he thought he was considered elite. "But everybody's entitled to their own opinion.
"In my mind, I don't look at myself as not-elite, so I'm always ready to go out and put on my best show."
View the best pictures of DJ Moore from this season as he posted his second-straight 1,000-yard receiving season, ranking second in the NFL with 18.1 yards per catch.