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What new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore sees in the Chargers run-starved offense

Only Patrick Mahomes threw for more yards this season than Justin Herbert, who tied for second in the NFL in game-winning drives.

It’s no wonder, then, that Kellen Moore’s introductory press conference as the Chargers’ offensive coordinator on Wednesday featured numerous questions about the team’s franchise quarterback.

But even with Herbert’s production so far and the unfulfilled potential going into his fourth NFL season, the biggest story for Moore is rooted to the ground.

If healthy, Herbert should continue to set records and carry this offense. But how the Chargers control the ball in 2023 will have a greater impact on the overall success of their redesigned plan.

“It’s something that will take the whole process to go through,” Moore said. “Under no circumstances are you going to walk in and say, ‘I have all the answers right here. Let’s go.’ ”

Hired Monday about 15 hours after he and the Dallas Cowboys officially parted ways, Moore met with the media via video conference during a pre-planned family vacation that included a stop at nearby Disneyland.
He stumbled over Herbert, praising Coach Brandon Staley and using the word “excited” almost too many times to count.

Moore said he and Staley didn’t know each other well before the Chargers and Cowboys held joint practices in Costa Mesa in August. He said the two often exchanged text messages during the season.

Moore also joked about the TV commercial he shot last summer with Herbert for a local Oregon car dealership.

“It’s amazing,” he said, “how life can come full circle here with you.”

In 2022, only Houston and Tampa Bay rushed for fewer yards than the Chargers. The inability to run the ball ultimately cost them everything as they failed to put away Jacksonville in an AFC wild card playoff loss that ended their season.

This is a franchise that hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2017. Staley has often explained how an effective ground game can only help Herbert and increase the Chargers’ overall explosiveness.

Moore spoke on Wednesday about the importance of being able to run the ball, especially on early downs because of the influence it can have when applying play action.

Marrying run and pass — an idea Staley preaches — will be one of Moore’s main assignments.

“When those two are in sync — the presentations are similar — it conflicts the defense,” Moore said. “That’s something we’re really excited about building and developing here, the first- and second-down game. It allows you to be more aggressive, to get the ball downfield.”

During his four seasons coordinating Dallas’ offense, the Cowboys finished fifth, 17th, ninth and ninth in yards rushing. Ezekiel Elliott ran 1,000 meters twice and Tony Pollard once in that period.

Moore is now armed with Austin Ekeler – the NFL’s leading touchdown scorer for the past two seasons – and a dwindling group still looking for a second consistent contributor.

Joshua Kelley has seemed capable of that job at times over the past three seasons, but the Chargers have also tried Justin Jackson, Kalen Ballage and Sony Michel.

At Dallas, Moore also had an offensive line that was generally among the best in the league. The Chargers offensive front has been experiencing a resurgence of late.

The team used first-round selections on left tackle Rashawn Slater and right guard Zion Johnson in the final two drafts. The Chargers made Corey Linsley one of the NFL’s highest-paid centers in March 2021.

Entering his sophomore season, Jamaree Salyer will now be able to take over the left guard when veteran Matt Feiler is released. Right tackle Trey Pipkins III, a 2019 third round pick, is a free agent pending and up for re-signing.

Moore called Linsley “one of the best in the NFL for several years” and repeatedly referred to the Chargers’ effort along the offensive line over the past two years.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, who has a new offensive coordinator for next season, went to the locker room after the warmup for an AFC wild card game loss in Jacksonville.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

“There’s been a lot of investment there from a youth perspective,” he said. “I think it’s great to see those guys continue to develop. … Their future is now skyrocketing.”

Moore also spoke of the importance of getting Herbert out of the bag and “using the presnap to our advantage – the shifts, the moves, all the different things you can do to provide challenges for a defense.”

He suggested that the Chargers use pace at times as well, something his predecessor, Joe Lombardi, may not have done enough. The Chargers’ offense in 2022 has looked stagnant at times.

Moore promised his offense will be a mix of what he learned coaching under Jason Garrett and Mike McCarthy in Dallas and what Herbert and the Chargers have done well since 2020. All that, plus more.

“It builds a system around the players,” he said. “This thing, we all do it together. This isn’t a dropout from the playbook from Dallas and saying, “You learn this, and we’ll do this.”

“There are so many good things happening here with Justin and all the guys. … What they built, there is so much good. So I think we need to make sure we include that…

“There will be things from Dallas that we want to include that I’m definitely familiar with. But once you get through those two steps, “Let’s go explore this thing together and figure out what we ultimately want this thing to be.” ”