Justin Herbert Brings the Deep Ball Back to the Chargers

The third of the 2020 draft’s top-10 quarterbacks, Herbert will be brought along slowly but has a chance to launch the Chargers’ offense.
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In the past, when a quarterback class was robust enough to produce three top-10 picks, there seemed to be a great deal of jockeying by teams to get into position. In 2020, with such a marked difference between all three talents, it seemed like everything simply fell into place.

No trades. No top 10 movement for the first time in half a decade. And the Chargers came away with Justin Herbert, who, like Tua Tagovailoa in Miami, will have the chance to develop behind a veteran starter.

Los Angeles avoided the veteran quarterback carousel for a reason, believing that a combination of Tyrod Taylor and Herbert, a developmental prospect with NFL-caliber size and arm strength, will be enough to reestablish a club that recently said goodbye to a future Hall of Famer in Philip Rivers.

He should eventually fit well into Anthony Lynn’s shotgun-heavy attack, though it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Chargers expand their play action suite to accommodate both Herbert and Taylor, both of whom can move well outside of the pocket.

Herbert specifically will signify a new era for the Chargers in Los Angeles, giving them a different dimension than they’ve seen under center for the better part of 16 seasons with Rivers. At Oregon, his rushes were split fairly evenly between unplanned scrambles and designed rushes, topping out at 50 attempts in 2018 before a more conservative 34 during his final season.

Also, a new element for the Chargers with Herbert? A more robust deep passing game. In each of his four years at Oregon, Herbert had a 100-plus quarterback rating on deep throws regardless of whether he was facing a man or zone defense. The Chargers were a top-five team in passes to the short middle and short left of the field but did not log a top 10 appearance in any of the three deep-field categories.

While it’s unclear whether the Dolphins, Bengals and Chargers all coveted one quarterback over another, the lack of aggressiveness in securing a draft position behind Cincinnati seemed to show that each team was comfortable with who was falling to them. Herbert’s ability to expand Los Angeles’ attack shows as much.

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