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Chargers OTAs: Justin Herbert Feels 'Miles Ahead' of Last Year With Continuity Along the Offensive Unit

Continuity is huge for Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert as he enters his third NFL season.

Justin Herbert took to the practice field with many of his teammates on Monday for the start of the Chargers' OTA portion of their offseason program.

Herbert's coming off a sophomore campaign in the NFL that saw him lead the Chargers on the brink of a playoff berth and named to the Pro Bowl.

He threw for over 5,000 yards, completing 66% of his throws, logging 38 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Herbert was stellar in his first season under offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi last year, and he's looking to build on the infrastructure that was laid in 2021.

Now, as he enters his second season in the same offensive system, Herbert isn't tasked with having to learn a new playbook – something he’s had to do in each of his last two NFL offseasons of his young career.

“I think the biggest thing is understanding that we’re miles ahead of where we were last year," Herbert said after his first OTA practice. "Last year, we were focusing on calling the right plays in the huddle and making sure everyone was lined up in the huddle and getting lined up on the field. 

"Guys have tons of film to look back on from last year and we’re farther ahead of where we thought we were going to be. It’s always great to add those guys in. We’re adding a guard, we’re adding another tight end. Those guys are smart and they’re able to pick it up really quickly.”

Nov 21, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) runs the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Herbert said he's been zeroing in on his footwork this offseason, attempting to clean up his five and seven-step dropbacks. But ultimately, he believes this offseason is about picking up right where the offense left off last season.

"The quarterbacks always meet out here really early," Herbert said. "All of those guys were out there. I kind of ran out there and said, ‘We’re picking up right where we left off.’ I think that’s kind of the way it is. Hopefully, that’s the way it is so we don’t lose too much ground. To have everyone come here, pick it up as quickly as they have been — it’s obviously a lot of room for improvement, but I thought overall that it was a good first day.”

A big thing for Herbert and other members of the offense was retaining continuity throughout the unit. 

The Chargers re-signed wide receiver Mike Williams to a three-year, $60 million contract extension just ahead of the franchise tag deadline. The team also re-signed backup quarterback Chase Daniel, a resource that Herbert credits through his process of developing last season.

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“It’s awesome," Herbert said on Daniel being back in the quarterback room. "He’s another coach out there. Everything that he’s been able to do, whether it’s throwing the ball or whether it’s in the film room, out on the field, he knows so much about the offense, so much about the game.

“[I credit him] a ton. There are times where you’re the quarterback and you don’t want to go to the coach and say, ‘I don’t know this,’ or, ‘I don’t know that.’ You can go to Chase Daniel and you trust him. He knows what he’s doing. Whatever gap you think there is knowledge-wise, he’s able to fill it and he’s pretty knowledgeable about everything.”

Jun 15, 2021; Costa Mesa, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterbacks Justin Herbert (10) and Chase Daniel (7) during minicamp at the Hoag Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel didn't take a snap under center last season but his veteran leadership was invaluable, nonetheless. Herbert has a strong comfort level with Daniel being the next man up behind him, and maintaining his services was significant for the cohesion of the team's quarterback group.

Brandon Staley had similar thoughts to Herbert regarding continuity – except the Chargers coach was referring to the defensive side of the ball.

"You’re not having to explain everything for the first time to everybody every single day,” Staley said. “I think that that’s a big advantage for us. Now we’re able to focus on the little things in football that make a big difference.”

The Chargers returned the bulk of their offensive unit with the exception of two spots across the offensive line and tight end. Meanwhile, on defense, they reconstructed the unit but among the players brought aboard via trades and free agency, four of the newcomers enter the Chargers' building with previous experience playing in Staley's scheme.

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Nick Cothrel is the publisher of Charger Report. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCothrel for more Chargers coverage.