National Football League
'We can't lose the good': Kellen Moore's job is to make Eagles' 'stale' offense work
National Football League

'We can't lose the good': Kellen Moore's job is to make Eagles' 'stale' offense work

Published May. 22, 2024 1:15 p.m. ET

Kellen Moore was hired by the Philadelphia Eagles to fix a growing problem. Their offense, once their strength, didn't work during their miserable stretch run last season. Nick Sirianni even admitted that it suddenly became "stale."

But when the Eagles' new offensive coordinator looked at the film, he didn't just see the dysfunction that contributed so much to the disappointing 1-6 finish. He saw issues that needed to be addressed, but he also saw bright spots. And nothing made him think that the Eagles needed to throw their entire playbook away.

"I think the biggest thing was I felt like, ‘Hey, we got some really good stuff going on here,'" Moore said last week. "'And we can't lose the good.'"

That really is the crux of what the 35-year-old Moore's job is this season. He wasn't hired to reinvent the offensive scheme they've used since Nick Sirianni was hired as head coach in 2021. He was hired to find a way to make Sirianni's offense work again. They need him to find a way to keep all the good things the Eagles do well on offense and somehow enhance it. He's not being asked to install his own scheme and run the Eagles offense his way. 


He was hired, in Sirianni's words, to "take away the staleness" and to "add value" to what the Eagles already do.

And they did do things well. After all, they were the NFL's eighth-ranked offense last season — the third time they've ranked in the top 14 in Sirianni's three seasons (even though he's now on to his fourth offensive coordinator). They averaged 25.5 points and 354.3 yards per game in 2023. And with quarterback Jalen Hurts, receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert, they were loaded with weapons even before they added running back Saquon Barkley in March.

Their problems were just magnified down the stretch, when they suddenly couldn't score or move the ball efficiently. They averaged just 18.9 points in their final seven games. They totaled 19 points in their last two, including in a 32-9 loss in the first round of the playoffs. They didn't top 300 yards of offense in any of their final three games.

So the tools are there. The old playbook worked. Former offensive coordinator Brian Johnson just couldn't make it all happen when it mattered the most.

Can Moore really fix those problems while running an offense that isn't completely his? In some ways, he said, that's what he's always done.

"Each stop, really, the big emphasis is on collaboration," he said. "We kind of kept the system in place and made our little adjustments when Jason (Garrett) was our head coach (in Dallas). Mike (McCarthy) came in and we were fortunate to merge those two worlds together, and it was a really fun process. Going to L.A. last year, we had a similar thing, try to keep some of the things in place, and build off of that."

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Moore's experience running offenses has been somewhat unique. He was a backup for three seasons in Dallas (2015-17) when Garrett ran the offense (even though others sometimes called the plays). He then spent one year as Garrett's quarterbacks coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2019 even though he was just 29 years old.

The Cowboys had the NFL's top offense that season too, but they went just 8-8 and Garrett was fired. McCarthy came in and kept Moore on board, but brought his old playbook with him. After three seasons together, though, McCarthy decided he wanted to call the plays of his offense himself and Moore headed off to his one season with the Chargers.

All of which is why it's hard to pinpoint what a Moore offense actually looks like, since until last season with the Chargers — when his offense was decimated by injuries — he's never really run an offense that was completely his own.

In 2019 in Dallas, he leaned heavily on play-action and motion and rode running back Ezekiel Elliott as far as he could (1,357 rushing yards, 54 catches for 420 yards), though the Cowboys only ran on 42 percent of their plays. In 2021, under McCarthy, they ran about the same amount but running backs became a featured part of the passing attack. Quarterback Dak Prescott targeted Elliott and running back Tony Pollard 101 times (they combined for 86 catches for 624 yards despite the presence of both CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper.

One year later, with Cooper gone, Lamb (107-1,359-9) was the star of the passing attack. The Cowboys ran more than usual that season (47 percent of the time), but the production of Elliott and Pollard in the passing game went down (78 targets, 56 catches, 463 yards). Prescott and Lamb were the focus because that's what worked best.

"Moore is a good adapter," said one NFC scout. "He knows how to make great use of what he's got. Maybe he's running someone else's offense, but he figures out ways to use it. Some guys try to force-feed players into their scheme. He's not that stubborn. He calls plays to fit what he's got."

That's what the Eagles are hoping, because they've got a lot. Hurts, despite his struggles last season while battling injuries, is one of the best two-way quarterbacks in the game. Brown and Smith, who combined for 187 catches, 2,522 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, are arguably the best 1-2 punch at receiver in the entire NFL. And tight end Goedert, when he's healthy, is a deceptively dangerous receiving tight end.

And now they've added Barkley, who lost some of his luster while toiling behind terrible offensive lines and battling injuries for six frustrating seasons with the New York Giants. He has the ability to be as productive as Elliott once was for more, both in the running game and the passing attack. In fact, the Eagles see vast untapped potential in his receiving ability. Barkley had 91 catches for 721 yards as a rookie in 2018, but since then, in the passing game, he's been incredibly underused.

"Saquon is a premier running back, first and foremost. We're really excited about his ability to run the football," Moore said. "We know the (other) aspects that make him great. It's his ability to be a great pass protector, to be a receiver out of the backfield. Obviously, we've got to try to utilize him as much as we can."

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Of course, Moore can't ride Barkley at the expense of the others — not when the Eagles just made Brown (three years, $92 million) and Smith (three years, $75 million) two of the highest-paid receivers in the league. He has to look at the good they've done during their two seasons together, and then add in the good Barkley can do, too.

"Certainly we're really excited about the guys that we have in place here," Moore said. "A lot of guys who can do a lot of different roles and a lot of variety. I think the biggest thing is having clear identity of who we want to be, and ultimately week in and week out understanding their role certainly through a game. There's going to be certain games where guys are going to get more attention than others. So I think there's that continuous trust as we build this thing."

That trust is what was lost late last season when the offense got "stale". The Eagles seemed to lose faith in their running game, despite D'Andre Swift's 1,049-yard season. They passed too often in situations where they should have run. Hurts didn't look right and made questionable decisions about when to run on his own. Brown often appeared frustrated. Nothing, during their seven-game slide, looked right.

But the pieces were in place. They have even more now. It's Moore's job to move them in the right directions — even if the scheme isn't completely his.

"I don't even think we know that yet," Sirianni said at the owners' meetings in late March. "There's a lot of concepts that are very, very similar. But I hired Kellen to do a job and we'll mesh things together, just like I said right from the beginning. We'll have some good things that we've done here in the past, and he's going to bring some new elements to it."

"There will be tweaks. There will be changes. Everything is constantly evolving," Moore said. "We've got a lot of good going on. We can't lose the good."

Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.


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