Few have experienced the meteoric rise that Los Angeles Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert has in 2020.
Originally slated to sit and learn behind veteran Tyrod Taylor, Herbert grabbed the reigns during an unfortunate mishap with Taylor, essentially forcing the Chargers’ hand into starting the Oregon product. Since then, Herbert has exploded onto the scene with his huge arm and mobility, providing some serious explosion to the Chargers’ offense, and giving the second Los Angeles football team hope for the future.
Since facing, and vanquishing, Herbert in Week 8, how has this talented signal-caller developed? Here's what the Broncos have to watch for on Sunday in L.A.
Coming out of Oregon, Herbert was known for a huge arm, but limited accuracy and touch. Most of that has disappeared in the NFL with the Chargers.
Herbert looks like a special, special talent at quarterback. The ball absolutely jumps off of his hand and carries easily downfield.
Against New England, Herbert struggled overall due to the Patriots changing coverages and disguising blitzes, but when he was able to dissect what the opponent was doing, the QB threw dart after dart.
Look at Herbert drive into this ball and fire an absolute seed up the seam to Jalen Guyton. Herbert throws this football where only Guyton can get it, and he gets it to him with enough heat to protect Guyton in the process in between three defenders.
It helps that Herbert is mobile and can extend plays with his legs, allowing guys to work open. But when you can flick your wrist and fire a seed like this to Tyron Johnson for the score against the Falcons, it only adds to the difficulty for opponents.
Slow that down again and look at the way the ball explodes out of his hand with absolute ease. And then look at the accuracy on the ball off-platform to Johnson streaking across the formation.
Sometimes quarterbacks just have a special arm, and that’s exactly what the case is with Herbert. He flicks the football so easily that it just leaps out of his hand and carries easily downfield.
Against the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday Night Football in overtime, Herbert uncorked this gem to set up the Chargers in scoring position.
Look at his base. See how it’s not set? That throw is all arm strength from Herbert. He makes it look easy on the 53-yard bomb to Guyton.
Most rookie quarterbacks don’t quite know how to manipulate NFL safeties with their eyes, but Herbert has started to show that in recent weeks, looking off NFL safeties to move pieces around the field.
On Thursday night, Herbert looked off the Raiders’ safety in two-high just enough, holding him to the left long enough before throwing a rope to Johnson for the score.
Accuracy in Tight Windows
The most impressive thing with Herbert in his rookie year is the easy accuracy that he displays often.
Herbert’s big arm allows him to take chances on tight windows, but his easy accuracy really allows him to thrive on throws into tight windows.
Again, Herbert throws a dart off balance with his base disrupted by the pass rush, but the ball just comes out so effortlessly with power and touch. Herbert places this ball where only Keenan Allen can get it for the score.
Broncos' Best Hope
For Denver to have a chance on Sunday in L.A., it'll have to do a great job of disguising coverages pre-snap before shifting into something new, which could confuse Herbert.
If the Broncos can confuse Herbert pre- and post-snap, they could force him into some ugly turnovers, which could give Denver’s offense some short-field possessions and the chance to capitalize.
Denver will also have to stay disciplined in rush lanes, forcing Herbert to hold onto the football and remain in the pocket, rather than letting him escape the pocket and extend plays with his legs.
Allen, running back Austin Ekeler, and tight end Hunter Henry are all problems in their own right, but taking away Herbert early will really throw the Chargers into a funk.