OXNARD, Calif. (AP) - Kellen Moore is the backup quarterback the Dallas Cowboys hope won’t have to take a meaningful snap in 2017, just as he was a year ago before an injury at training camp ended his season.
The radical difference since Moore broke his right ankle early last August is the incumbent in front of him: Dak Prescott, whose sensational rookie season kept 10-year starter Tony Romo on the bench when he was ready to return from a back injury and ultimately led the club’s career passing leader to retire and go into broadcasting.
The changing face of the franchise didn’t alter Moore’s outlook much. He’s always known his job role either way.
“He’s just back here healthy, irregardless of whom the starter was a year ago or who it is now,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “He knows he’s got a significant role for us. I don’t think he’s approaching it any different.”
Linehan is the constant through the unexpected transition, and the reason Moore is going into his third season with the Cowboys. Undersized by QB standards (listed generously at 6-foot), the undrafted Moore made a connection with Linehan in Detroit out of Boise State in 2012.
Both are from eastern Washington, and Linehan likes to joke about his family’s issues with his close relationship with a hated rival since Linehan went to Idaho. Kidding aside, Linehan simply thinks there isn’t a quarterback smarter than Moore, or better-suited to carry out his game plan.
“For me it’s coming up on five of my six years,” the 28-year-old Moore said of his link to Linehan. “You kind of understand the way he thinks of football, his process and his way of thinking and his terminology. All of that stuff kind of adds up when you speak the same language. It’s important.”
Moore didn’t take a regular-season snap all three years he was with the Lions, and only got into games with the Cowboys at the end of a lost 2015 season when Romo was hurt most of the season and backups Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel failed badly.
The 28-year-old Moore lost the final two games as a starter in a 4-12 season, throwing six interceptions in three games overall.
But he did have a 400-yard passing game in the finale and four touchdowns total. And the Cowboys obviously have faith in him, because they signed him as a free agent coming off the ankle injury.
Last season, Moore was one of the voices in an interesting quarterback room for the suddenly blooming Prescott. Romo, whose back injury in a preseason game completed Prescott’s ascension , was in his 14th season; Moore had several years in Linehan’s system; and backup Mark Sanchez had experience as a rookie starter.
Instead of sitting in the background with Romo in control, Moore had a much more active role as a voice for Prescott.
“Kellen does such a good job just contributing,” said coach Jason Garrett, who was the backup to Troy Aikman when the Cowboys were winning Super Bowls in the 1990s.
“And he can contribute a lot of different ways as a backup quarterback, just in that room, making that room feel like it is a good place for the guy that’s starting and everything he goes through and then just having a positive impact on everybody on offense and throughout the team.”
It’s easy to forget that Moore’s injury gave Prescott significantly more playing time in the first two preseason games last year. And the former Mississippi State standout impressed enough for the Cowboys to give him the job when Romo went down.
Moore isn’t really the type to wonder what might have been without his ankle injury. Mostly he’s just glad to be back in camp, where he has a better appreciation of the gritty daily details after so much idle time last August.
“It was your first August where you sat on the couch and watched ‘Fixer Upper’ all day and didn’t really watch football,” Moore said. “It was kind of a weird deal and you had to deal with that. Obviously you’re enjoying it this year.”
Even if a backup is all anyone wants him to be.
NOTES: The Cowboys waived/injured TE Connor Hamlett (broken fibula) and waived OL Ruben Carter, WR Javontee Herndon and LB Lucas Wacha. … Dallas signed CB Dejaun Butler, CB John Green, TE M.J. McFarland and WR Corey Washington. … WR/KR Ryan Switzer, a rookie fourth-round pick, had a setback with a hamstring injury. … LT Tyron Smith (back) returned to practice Monday. He’s missed several camp practices.
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