Chargers’ offense with new coordinator Kellen Moore is the bomb

His answers typically are straightforward — lacking gloss and glitz — a football coach sounding like a football coach. Mostly Xs with very few Oohs.

The Chargers didn’t hire Kellen Moore to bring electricity to their news conferences, only their offense.

“He’s a calm guy,” wide receiver Keenan Allen said. “He’s not tripping too much. Probably never seen him yell. I don’t think he can get mad.”

The qualities Moore hasn’t shown at the podium or in practice are the same ones the Chargers hope spring to life for quarterback Justin Herbert and their playmakers in 2023:

Creativity. Explosiveness. Unpredictability.

“We want to be the aggressors,” tight end Gerald Everett said. “We want to be one of those teams that people are afraid to play. We want to be known for putting up points and gaining a ton of yards.”

Veteran center Corey Linsley called Moore “level-headed, very analytical, smart.” He noted that those are all plus traits for a play caller, before adding “defensive coaches are the hot-headed ones.”

Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore leads his family across the practice field.

Kellen Moore leads his family across the practice field. According to the Chargers, their new offensive coordinator has a calming demeanor.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Moore’s job this season is to crank up the heat.

He was the offensive coordinator in Dallas the last four seasons, three of his Cowboys team finishing sixth, first and fourth in points. Dallas’ performance dipped in 2020 after quarterback Dak Prescott was injured.

Now, Moore has a better trigger man in Herbert and the NFL’s top touchdown producer over the last two seasons in running back Austin Ekeler.

He also has Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Joshua Palmer, a first-round pick in Quentin Johnston and a pile of expectations, each of which is rooted in the notion that the Chargers are going to be more dynamic, not to mention dazzling.

As important as anything, Moore has a healthy Herbert. The quarterback played much of last season with damaged rib cartilage before ending the season with a shoulder in bad enough shape to require offseason surgery.

Who knows? If Herbert had avoided injury and reached his projected standards in 2022, Joe Lombardi still might be the Chargers’ offensive coordinator.

Instead, coach Brandon Staley let Lombardi go and jumped on Moore as if he were the team’s top free-agent target all along.

Allen, a lifetime Charger working with his fifth coordinator, confirmed that this new offense will take more deep shots based on film review of the Cowboys over the last few seasons.

“There’s not a lot of times where everybody on the field is running short routes,” Allen said, “versus Lombardi, where everybody’s running short routes. Now, somebody has an opportunity every time.”

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen catches the ball during a training camp session.

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen says patterns are run differently under new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.

(Kyusung Gong / For the Times)

Each snap in the passing game, as Allen explained it, will feature a chance for Herbert to flaunt his powerful right arm. The expectation is that Moore also will liberally align his receivers throughout the formation to create more opportunities through mismatches.

This is what the Chargers hope to show coming off a season during which the ailing Herbert connected with Ekeler 107 times, tied for the second most receptions by a running back in one NFL season. Christian McCaffrey is first (116) and second.

In 2023, at least some of those shorter tosses are forecast to soar farther downfield.

“You can see it,” Palmer said. “You can feel it. We’ve got the guys to do it. We all see the explosive plays on social media that they’re posting [during training camp]. That’s one of the things we’re going to do.”

But will more chances lead to more risks and lead to more turnovers? Herbert has finished in the top 10 in interception percentage in two of his three seasons. The other season, he tied for 15th.

So he has taken care of the ball, while throwing more passes than every quarterback in the league other than the now-retired Tom Brady. Known for his intellect, Herbert is smart enough to understand turnovers can be killers.

“If they’re not there, move on, and that gives us opportunities to keep going,” Moore said. “Justin has done that throughout his career in such a phenomenal way.”

Staley praised his quarterback as a decision-maker while explaining that the Chargers are “trying to walk that fine line” between being aggressive and being prudent.

He likened Herbert to a point guard, one who almost always makes the right play. With Herbert’s ability to place and pace footballs, targeting experienced receivers with productive pasts, Staley said his offense is in secure hands.

“We don’t ever want to take away Justin’s instincts because I think those are what make him so special,” Staley said. “With more experience is going to come more play making.”

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert prepares to throw during training camp.

Quarterback Justin Herbert remains the impetus of the Chargers’ offense.

(Kyusung Gong / For the Times)

Williams laughed and quickly dismissed the suggestion that the Chargers could be in trouble if Herbert starts taking too many chances.

He instead sided with Allen, who noted that Herbert, through three seasons, hardly has become known for making “boneheaded plays.”

“More interceptions?” Williams said. “Why not more catches for us? Why you got to look at it like a negative like that? You can be risky and not have the interceptions, you know.

“Besides, everybody’s acting like we’re going to throw the ball deep every play. An explosive offense really means catching a few shots a game. Do that and then you’ll be known as an explosive offense.”

The challenges for Moore aren’t limited to the air. The Chargers also continue to search for a more reliable run game, one that doesn’t have to do a lot but does have to do enough.

This is a franchise that has finished in the top half of NFL rushing offenses once since 2013. That happened five years ago and, even then, the Chargers ranked no better than 15 out of 32.

Ekeler never has had a 1,000-yard rushing season. Behind him, the Chargers will open 2023 with Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller and undrafted rookie Elijah Dotson, hoping someone can provide consistency as a backup.

An improved ground game would make Herbert even more dangerous and unlock all of Moore’s trumpeted concoctions, the coordinator with the muted public persona not a screamer but a schemer.

“He’s pretty chill,” Williams said. “I mean, he brings the energy. But you gotta kinda catch it, you know? It’s not going to be just out front. Yeah, I’d say ‘chill.’ That’s him.”