Kellen Moore wasn’t out of a job for long. After parting ways with the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Moore is expected to become the Los Angeles Chargers‘ new offensive coordinator, according to NFL Media.
The Chargers moved on from previous play-caller Joe Lombardi after he’d spent two seasons at the helm, and Moore will be tasked with improving a Los Angeles offense that never seemed to live up to its potential. Can Justin Herbert and Co. show improvement in Year 1 under Moore?
Chargers Hire Kellen Moore as OC
The Chargers and much of the NFL must have known Moore wasn’t long for Dallas. Although Moore’s departure from the Cowboys wasn’t announced until yesterday, L.A. had already requested and been granted permission to speak with the 34-year-old, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
Moore would have likely appealed to a number of teams with offensive coordinator vacancies, including the Buccaneers, who were expected to have “significant interest.”
However, among all the clubs searching for a new OC, only the Chargers could offer the opportunity to work with a quarterback like Herbert. Los Angeles presented the best landing spot for Moore. The only real competitor from a quarterback standpoint might have been the Baltimore Ravens, but Lamar Jackson’s uncertain status may not have appealed to Moore.
Moore, who was a finalist for the Carolina Panthers’ head coaching position, will now get the chance to spread his wings away from Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, with whom he reportedly experienced some friction.
MORE: Kellen Moore’s Departure Is Mike McCarthy Trying To Save His Job
Over four seasons as Dallas’ play-caller, Moore led a Cowboys offense that ranked eighth in expected points added per play. Moore’s unit managed that efficiency despite losing Dak Prescott for almost the entirety of the 2020 campaign.
Meanwhile, Lombardi’s Chargers offense was largely productive in 2021 before falling to 16th in EPA per play this past season. Herbert posted his worst season as a pro, and while he still made several “wow” throws every game, he didn’t look like the quarterback that we’d gotten used to watching.
Los Angeles’ offense looked stagnant for much of the season, and Lombardi consistently failed to get creative in trying to get receivers open. Those issues were exacerbated when it came to moving the ball downfield, as Herbert’s 6.9-yard average depth of target ranked third-worst among 40 qualifying quarterbacks.
Herbert, admittedly, has a tendency to check the ball down quickly, which might be something Moore needs to coach out of him. If Moore can scheme receivers open and convince Herbert to take an extra beat and take shots that will deliver more value, the Chargers’ offense could take a massive leap next season.
Los Angeles also struggled to run the ball for most of the year, as they ranked just 22nd in rushing DVOA. That problem was magnified in L.A.’s devastating Wild Card meltdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars, when they couldn’t run the ball or wind the clock and eventually coughed up a 27-point lead.
We saw evidence that Moore was able to get an explosive back like Dallas’ Tony Pollard in space, where he’s able to take advantage of his speed and angles to create chunk yardage. There’s no reason Austin Ekeler, one of the most talented RBs in the NFL, can’t be used in the same way.
Chargers’ Offseason Agenda on Offense
If Moore is to get the most out of the Chargers’ offense in 2023, he needs to hope they can stay healthy. That won’t fall on him, of course, but Los Angeles either needs changes to its medical staff or a significant boost in injury luck.
Herbert suffered a rib cartilage fracture in Week 3 and looked limited for weeks after, and it’s fair to wonder if the injury affected him all season. Keenan Allen missed seven games with a hamstring strain, while Mike Williams was sidelined for four regular-season contests before missing the Chargers’ playoff game. And multiple members of the Bolts’ offensive line — including left tackle Rashawn Slater and Corey Linsley — were absent for much of the year.
If the Chargers can merely regress to the mean in terms of injury issues, they should have enough of a foundation to succeed on offense. But there’s still work to be done.
MORE: Los Angeles Chargers Offseason Preview 2023 — Free Agents, Cut Candidates, and Team Needs
Los Angeles desperately needs a speed receiver, a pass-catching option who can take the top off their offense and open up space for Allen and Williams. Allen is a possession receiver, and Williams is more of a ball-winner. The Chargers must find someone with the quicks to complement those skill sets.
Meanwhile, L.A. should also look into more depth along their offensive line. Sixth-round pick Jamaree Salyer looked promising in relief of Slater at left tackle, so the Chargers probably already have their swing tackle. But this offense looked cooked when Linsley was out of the lineup, so Los Angeles needs to search for a player capable of filling in along the interior of their OL.
The Chargers are projected to be more than $20 million over the cap in 2023, so most of their improvements will need to occur in the draft. But with minor tweaks and fewer injuries, the Los Angeles offense looks ready for Moore to succeed.