New Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore was not out of work for long after parting ways with the Cowboys, and now he’s set his sights on reinvigorating a Los Angeles offense that wilted in the second half of a loss to Jacksonville on Super Wild Card Weekend in which it blew a 27-point lead.
That process will hinge most principally on quarterback Justin Herbert.
“Justin, we know the physical talent,” Moore told reporters during his introductory news conference, via the team transcript. “He obviously does a tremendous job. I think it’s been really cool to watch him, from a fundamental perspective, as he’s gone from Oregon into the NFL and transitioned, and started playing under center — he has done such a phenomenal job of that — and the play-action game, the movement game. We know his ability to throw it down the field. I’m just really, really excited to be able to work with him and, hopefully, help him in some way as he continues to build the career that he is going to have.”
Herbert has been tremendous in his first three seasons since going to the Chargers sixth overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. The young QB has thrown for 14,089 yards, 94 touchdowns and 35 interceptions thus far in his career, but there have at times been mumblings that he could be managed better to tap into an even higher ceiling of development.
Those murmurs intensified after the wild-card loss to Jacksonville in which Herbert and Co. managed only three points in the second half, and it ultimately led to head coach Brandon Staley dismissing Joe Lombardi for an infusion of new ideas at offensive coordinator.
Moore built an effective, at times prolific, offense in four years as OC in Dallas. The Cowboys twice led the league in yards in 2019 and 2021 and ranked no worse than 14th — the year Dak Prescott missed 11 games with a fractured ankle. That’s compared to a Chargers team that has ranked 18th, fifth and 13th in the three years since drafting Herbert.
Although Moore fell out of favor in Dallas following a poor offensive showing of his own in the Divisional Round, the 33-year-old has displayed the chops to make this offense its most dangerous yet under Herbert.
“Mike (Williams) and his ability to make 50-50 plays is phenomenal,” Moore said. “You don’t see that around the league very often. What Keenan (Allen) can do to separate and his route-running and, putting him on routes that he’s able to make decisions, he is going to make things happen. Certainly, from a scheme standpoint, you hope that you can find a way to create those opportunities.”
They both have had occasional injury issues, but Williams and Allen give the Chargers diverse options at the top two wide receiver positions. The two combined for 1,647 yards and eight touchdowns across their 23 collective regular-season games last season, and they’re a major reason Herbert has averaged 4,696 yards and 31 TDs per year.
The bigger riddle for Moore to solve will be Los Angeles’ running game. Despite having another top talent, Austin Ekeler, in the backfield, the Chargers averaged 3.8 yards per carry for 1,524 rushing yards in 2022, both 30th in the NFL.
The offense seldom got things going on the ground, which in turn stunted some of what Herbert could do aerially.
“It’s something that will take the whole process to go through,” he said. “By no means are you going to walk in and say, ‘I have all the answers here, let’s go.’ I’m really excited to work with this staff, work with Brandon (Staley) and these players and find the formula that works for us. Certainly, there will be pieces that they’ve been able to establish and have some success — let’s incorporate that. We’ll have some stuff from Dallas. It’s important to be diverse.”
Whether it’s Joshua Kelley, who trailed far behind Ekeler’s 915 rushing yards with 287 to place second on the team last season, or a player to be determined, one of the key incorporations must be finding a pairing similar to Moore’s Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.
“We’re playing 17-plus weeks in the season,” Moore said regarding using depth in the backfield. “Those guys, you need to keep them fresh so that they’re playing a really, really good football in December, January and so on. Certainly, from my vantage point, what Austin (Ekeler) has done has been remarkable. You saw Josh (Kelley) start to develop a role. Certainly, that’ll be a situation that, hopefully, we develop two or three guys in there that can all take turns. You saw what Zeke and Tony were able to do in Dallas this past year. I thought that it allowed both of those guys to be playing really good football late in the season, and as fresh as they possibly could.”
The road ahead of Moore is simpler explained than traveled, but it boils down to this: fix the run game, build on what’s worked in the passing game and watch Herbert ascend to even greater heights.
It’s a job the Chargers believe he can do, and Moore is eager to begin.
“That’s just the exciting part of these situations, it’s just building a system around the players,” he said. “This thing, we’re going to do it together.”
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