Kellen Moore offense already 'more explosive', says safety
The next phase of the Kellen Moore Experiment is fast approaching.
With the Dallas Cowboys finally opting to part ways with longtime offensive coordinator Scott Linehan after another season of stalled offensive output, the opportunity presented itself for the team to look outside of the organization in search for his replacement. They were instead so enamored with the football acumen of Moore — who spent 2018 as the team's quarterbacks coach — that they decided to promote him into the OC role not long after showing Linehan the door, despite the former backup QB having only one year of coaching experience under his belt.
There are justifiable questions on if Moore can deliver now that he has the reigns, but this arc from player to high-level coaching seat is something that's been seen before, as head coach Jason Garrett can personally attest to.
By all accounts, Moore might just be one of the brightest young minds in all of football.
"Kellen's going to be great," backup quarterback Cooper Rush said from SportsCon in Dallas. "We're all really, really excited at just how in April and May he was controlling the meetings and running the offensive installation. His ideas are awesome and fresh. He's super, super bright.
"He's totally ready for the job. I think everyone knows that, and we're really excited."
Additionally, those who have already seen what's shaping up through the unique eyes of a defensive player are just as emphatic on what's to come. On the back end of minicamp, All-Pro linebacker Sean Lee was asked if all of the hype surrounding the team's new-look offense is warranted.
He couldn't have been more clear with his response.
"Yes, Kellen has been incredible," Lee said, via Jane Slater of NFL Network. "They've challenged us with the different looks that they have, how they're dressing things up and how many weapons they have — using all of them. It's been a challenge for us defensively. Each day [there are] different looks and he's throwing them at us fast.
"To us, it's good for us because it stresses our system and you have to take on that challenge every single day."
When I recently posed the same question to veteran safety Kavon Frazier, he went one step further in explaining what he's seeing.
"It's a lot more spread out," Frazier told me. "As far as both getting more people the ball and even just the offense [itself] is more spread out. It's still some pro style in there, but it's a lot more spread out. I think it's a lot more explosive."
The word "explosive" isn't a term that's been associated with the Cowboys' offense in recent seasons, and if they can regain that swagger — it could be enough to propel them around the proverbial playoff corner.
There's a stark difference between potential and the realization of it, however, and with training camp up next — slated to begin July 26 in the familiar environment of Oxnard, CA — the rubber of Moore's offseason hype is beginning to finally meet the road of actually being an offensive coordinator in the NFL. He's been focused on primarily installing his scheme this offseason in preparation for camp and beyond, and he's already realizing just how daunting task of a task coordinating an entire offense can be.
"It’s different pieces each and every day, whether it’s formations or whether it’s personnel, play type, field zone," Moore said in May, via DallasCowboys.com. "All these things, they kind of get flavored up each day. So whether it’s an emphasis in a certain formation, and then maybe down the line introduce a personnel group that you don’t do as much. ...That’s some of the interesting battles of OTAs, because sometimes you want to clean something up but you’re moving on to the next thing.
"That’s part of this. We’ll go through it in this phase, and then we’ll go to training camp. We’ll hit a very similar progression of it, so we’ll be able to hit it again and hopefully clean it up again and then we’ll hopefully be ready come September."
Moore noted in rookie minicamp just how elated to see the roster shape up the way it has, with acquisitions this offseason forwarding him the opportunity to be creative.
"I think the beauty of our current roster is we have a lot of versatility," Moore said. "We have guys that can kind of line up in a lot of different places. Hopefully we can be multiple and present things in different ways, and at the end of the day still have our foundation and our philosophy. You can run similar plays, just out of a lot of different looks."
The upstart coordinator is certainly not lacking for weapons, led by two-time NFL rushing champ Ezekiel Elliott and a two-time pro bowl quarterback in Dak Prescott, who now has Amari Cooper — a three-time pro bowl wideout — as a primary receiving threat. The team added a dynamic gadget weapon in Tony Pollard via the 2019 NFL Draft, and then grabbed a more definitive RB backup shortly thereafter by selecting Mike Weber, who was Elliott's successor at Ohio State. Considering the progression on Michael Gallup and the acquisition of Randall Cobb in free agency, there's no shortage of talent at skill positions for Moore to tinker with.
The expectation is a new-age scheme that is the literal antithesis of the stagnancy suffered through on the back end of Linehan's stint in Dallas, and one that truly exploits the dual-threat nature of Prescott.
Don't count on him straying far from the "straw that stirs the drink", as team exec Stephen Jones describes Elliott, because even as they work to prevent wearing him down to a nub over the long haul — he's still very much the bell cow.
"At the end of the day, we want to get [Elliott] as many touches as we can," he said, via Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News. "At the same time, you [have] got to recognize what a 16-plus game season is. ...We'll see how it progresses [with the other running backs], but if we can get it to Zeke, we're going to get it to Zeke."
This is of course predicated upon Elliott not holding out as recently rumored, but a source confirmed to me there has been no such ultimatum issued at this time.
Contract negotiations of key players aside, the rapid progress of Moore this offseason can only be a recipe for success a once-prolific Cowboys' offense that devolved massively in recent seasons, but time will tell if Moore is the right chef. The good news is he can't burn the turkey any worse in his start than the predecessor did in his finish.
Moore has a great chance to not only prove his doubters wrong, but to also become ServPro and repair damage done to the progress of Dak Prescott and others.
Like it never even happened.
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