Carolina Panthers: Youth at Quarterback and Receiver Doesn't Bother John Fox

Paul MuellerSenior Analyst ISeptember 9, 2010

Steve Smith embraces the leadership role on an inexperienced receiving coprs.
Steve Smith embraces the leadership role on an inexperienced receiving coprs.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Matt Moore era in Carolina begins Sunday, when the Panthers travel to the Meadowlands to face the New York Giants.

Moore, 26, enters his first season as the full-time starter.

But he’s not the only young piece in the quarterback-receiver combination. Many of his targets, aside from the 31-year-old, 10-year veteran Steve Smith, are inexperienced in their own right, a fact that doesn’t seem to bother coach John Fox.

“At the end of the day,” said Fox, “I've had rookies play with us that have had Pro Bowl seasons. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak.”

The five receivers behind Smith on the depth chart, including No. 2 receiver Dwayne Jarrett, average just over 23 years of age with a combined six years of NFL experience, four of those years belonging to Jarrett.

Despite the inexperience at receiver, Fox expects Moore to handle the unit well.

“I know kind of what he thinks, and I know what I think, and what his teammates think, and what the rest of the coaching staff thinks,” said Fox. “At the end of the day, you're judged on how you perform, and I feel very confident that he'll be just fine.”

As the senior by five years on the unit, Smith is embracing the leadership role that comes with having a young quarterback and setting an example for young receivers. He is also confident that Moore can effectively handle the young unit.

“I see the progression of Matt as very good,” said Smith. “I see the offense—we’ll do as good as Matt does, and I think, for myself, the minimum mistakes I make in my route-running, I think it will define the route and separation. So I think the dependability, for me, will be key on Matt, so I take that responsibility just as much as the quarterback.”

Smith and Moore lead the Panthers into New York for the season opener Sunday at 1 p.m. EDT.

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