Kellen Moore has always seemed like the classic case of a great college player who couldn’t cut it in the NFL: Although he was a two-time All-American at Boise State, he’s small and he doesn’t have a great arm and he isn’t a great athlete, and he went undrafted in 2012. He signed with the Lions as an undrafted free agent but has been buried at No. 3 on the depth chart for two years and has never played in a regular-season game.
But Moore has managed to stick around in Detroit, and this preseason he’s making a strong case that he at least deserves to move up to No. 2 on the depth chart. In Thursday night’s preseason finale, Moore completed 17 of 28 passes for 172 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Overall, Moore completed 68.6 percent of his passes in the preseason, never threw an interception and finished with a passer rating of 108.4. Coach Jim Caldwell liked what he saw.
“He’s been pretty consistent the entire time,” Caldwell said of Moore. “He has composure, he has moxie, he’s got a good touch on the ball, he’s got a good feel for things and I thought he performed well.”
Moore and another young Lion, receiver Corey Fuller, connected on a 25-yard touchdown pass — and disagreed afterward about who deserved credit for it, with both saying it was the other’s big play.
“That’s all on Corey,” Moore said. “Awesome route, a really good job. I threw a crappy ball, and he made a good catch.”
Fuller disagreed: “Kellen needled the ball right through the defense, and all I had to do was get right underneath. I give it all to Kellen.”
All that humility is nice, but what are Moore’s chances of showing that he deserves the Lions’ No. 2 quarterback job? Probably not great. Throughout the offseason, training camp and the preseason, Dan Orlovsky has been ahead of Moore on the depth chart. Moore has been better than Orlovsky in the preseason, but Caldwell has always liked Orlovsky, going back to their time together in Indianapolis, when Orlovsky saved Caldwell from the ignominy of having an 0-16 season on his record by playing well in two-late season victories after the Colts’ other two quarterbacks, Curtis Painter and Kerry Collins, had lost all the games they started.
The question for Moore is probably less whether he can earn the No. 2 job in Detroit than whether he played well enough to force the Lions to keep three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. And it would seem that he did: It would be tough to justify cutting Moore at this point.
And it’s worth revisiting whether Moore may have better pro potential than it appeared when he was at Boise State. Moore went an amazing 50-3 as a college starter, with two of the losses coming by one point and the third coming on a field goal in overtime. At the time, however, Moore was viewed more as the perfect fit for Boise’s offense than a great quarterback in his own right. Boise has steadily declined since Moore’s departure and has lost six of its last 14 games, including a 35-13 beatdown at the hands of Ole Miss last night. Moore’s qualities as a quarterback are demonstrated by Boise’s struggles in his absence. And by his play on the field over the last four weeks, even if it’s only the preseason.