Following an impressive start to his rookie season after being thrown in unexpectedly due to injury, the Los Angeles Chargers have named Justin Herbert as their permanent starting quarterback.
Veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor started the season for the Chargers but suffered a freak injury just moments before the team’s week two matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. This opened the door for rookie Herbert to showcase his talents at the highest level for the first time, an opportunity the former Oregon slinger grabbed with both hands.
Taylor had suffered a rib injury prior to the season and the 31-year-old’s problems were exacerbated when a team doctor accidentally punctured his rib during a routine painkilling injection. This gave Herbert almost no time to mentally prepare for the daunting task ahead of him and he exhibited strong arm strength, pocket poise and impressive running skills en route to an unlucky overtime loss to last year’s Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I did not take that decision lightly because Tyrod Taylor is a veteran quarterback in this league. Tyrod is still working his way back health-wise. The decision to make Herbert the permanent starter was driven by performance and the decision was solidified on Monday or Tuesday after watching film from the Buccaneers game,” Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn told reporters.
“He got thrown in the fire. I thought he handled the situation well and I want to see more of him,” Lynn said. “It’s not going to be a situation where he’s looking over his shoulder. He’s our starting quarterback. He makes a bad play, he has a bad game, he’s our quarterback.”
Despite remaining winless through three starts, Herbert has continued to impress Chargers staff and media analysts alike with the combination of his cannon-like arm and ability to make plays with his feet. In addition to his physical abilities, Herbert has demonstrated that he also has the talent above the shoulders to succeed in the NFL.
The rookie has gone through his progressions well, as well as being consistently accurate with both short and deep passes. Big plays have been common since Herbert came in at quarterback and he has shown a willingness to remain in the pocket despite heavy pressure and deliver deep bombs down the field.
“I like the way he’s managed the huddle,” Lynn added of Herbert. “I like the way his teammates have responded to him. He is a leader in his own way. It’s the total package for me. It wasn’t just the big arm in the games. It’s the total package.”
“It was difficult because it wasn’t something of his own doing,” Lynn said of Taylor. “Having some history with this young man and knowing what he’s capable of, we didn’t see all of Tyrod Taylor in the first game that he won….It was difficult under these circumstances. But after three weeks of watching Justin and this is why we brought him here, to be our franchise quarterback, and I just think it’s time now.”
Herbert’s strong start to the season has perhaps come to a surprise to Hard Knocks viewers as he demonstrated little in terms of personality and talent in the five episodes of the annual show that allows fans a peek behind the scenes of training camp.
Next up for Herbert and the Chargers is another tough road trip, this time to the NFC South’s New Orleans Saints. The Saints are currently sat with a record of 2-2 after wins against the Buccaneers and Lions and losses to the Packers and Raiders. Herbert may have his work cut out coming up against the likes of defensive end Cam Jordan in the pass rush, but he has already demonstrated an ability to rise to a challenge, as well as being able to perform under heavy duress from opposition defenses.
“While the LA Chargers are 0-3 in Herbert’s three starts, you cannot fault the young quarterback for the three losses. Herbert has completed 77 of 107 attempts (72%) for 931 yards and five touchdowns and three interceptions. However, he does also have a fumble and a rushing touchdown,” Bolt Beat’s Jason Reed said of the young quarterback.
“The turnovers may seem shaky, but I would not say that any of them necessarily lost the Chargers the game. Overall, Herbert is still the only quarterback since the NFL-AFL merger to start his career with 900+ passing yards with at least a 70% completion in his first three starts.
“He can sit in the pocket and make some really good throws despite getting pressured more than he probably ever was at Oregon.
“While the team is 0-3 in his starts, I think each start has taught us one new thing about Herbert that should make fans more comfortable and Anthony Lynn‘s decision much easier.”