COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP)Kellen Moore has been under the spotlight since he was hired as the Los Angeles Chargers offensive coordinator in late January.
Considering this week’s opponent, the glare has been brighter than usual.
The Chargers host the Dallas Cowboys – otherwise known as the team where Moore spent eight years before coming to Southern California – on Monday night. Moore joined the Cowboys for the final three seasons of his playing career (2015-17) before moving to the coaching staff. He was the quarterbacks coach in 2018 and offensive coordinator from 2019 through last season.
Los Angeles’ hiring of Moore was announced less than 24 hours after Dallas coach Mike McCarthy said Moore would not return. At the time, McCarthy, who has taken over as the offensive play-caller, said the move was “a mutual decision to part ways.”
Moore said it will be fun to see familiar faces again, but his familiarity with the Cowboys or how much information he could share this week is overrated.
“Yeah, I think it’s easy for everyone to overthink it,” he said. “People are continuing to evolve, schemes evolve, schemes change. There are a lot of trends in this league. We get to over-analyze stuff a little during the week, and then we get to football as we get closer to Monday. I think a lot of that stuff is pretty overrated. It’s getting on the field and playing 11 on 11.”
What can’t be overstated is how much of an effect Moore has had on the Chargers. Los Angeles (2-2) enters Week 6 ranked fifth in total offense, averaging 388.8 yards per game and 5.80 yards per play.
Entering Week 6, Justin Herbert is third in the league with a 106.3 passer rating and has led the Chargers to 13 touchdowns and six field goals in 44 possessions.
“Herbert is playing fantastic, and I think Kellen Moore has had a lot to do with that,” said ESPN “Monday Night Football” analyst Troy Aikman. “He’s getting the ball down the field more than what I recall in the past.
“For Kellen to get to land in a place and have a quarterback like Justin Herbert, there’s a lot of coaches in the league that would have jumped at that one. So it’s been a good fit. It’s been a really good fit for Kellen, for sure.”
Herbert broke the middle finger on his left non-throwing hand two weeks ago in a 24-17 win over Las Vegas, but the only noticeable changes during practice was he was wearing a glove on the hand and not taking many snaps under center.
While the passing game has been more aggressive on downfield throws, there has also been an emphasis on the run game. After running the ball on only 35% of their plays last season, the second-lowest rate in the league, the Chargers are at 42.2% through four games.
After rushing for 233 yards in the opener against Miami, the Bolts have averaged only 82 in the past three games.
Austin Ekeler will return to the lineup on Monday night after suffering a sprained ankle during the fourth quarter against the Dolphins.
“He’s done a great job of communicating with us what he expects, what he sees, and all of the things that go into a game plan each week. It’s been great to hear from him,” said Herbert about working with Moore.
While all the Chargers games have been decided by seven points or fewer, the Cowboys (3-2) have gone to extremes in their five games. All three of their wins have been by at least 20 points – including two by 35 or more – but they are trying to bounce back after last Sunday night’s 42-10 drubbing by San Francisco.
Dallas enters Week 6 with the league’s 17th-ranked offense, averaging 327.4 yards per game, and 4.95 yards per play. Because they have been up by a large margin in most games, the Cowboys have the sixth-highest running play frequency at 47.1%.
The Cowboys have only nine touchdowns in 52 offensive possessions, but are tied for third in the league with 14 field goals entering Week 6. Dak Prescott has three sub-80 passer ratings. He’s had more than four in a season just once in his eight-year career.
“He’s been huge to my career. He’s more than a coach. Obviously, he was a teammate that turned into a coach, but he’s a friend. A friend for life,” Prescott said. “Talked to him earlier in the year. I wished him luck, but obviously, we’ve had our own things and our hands full. It will be great when I see him at some point come Monday.”
McCarthy said the biggest thing he looked at with this game is not facing Moore, but that the Chargers are coming off a bye week.
“There’s really no bells and whistles for this one. I know that’s all part of the game. He obviously has an excellent opportunity that he’s doing a very nice job with,” he said.
NOTE: Chargers WR Joshua Palmer was added to the injury report Sunday afternoon as questionable because of a groin jury. Palmer is fourth on the team with 11 receptions and had a key 51-yard reception late in the fourth quarter against the Raiders to put the game away.
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