A Deep Dive: Is Los Angeles Chargers Justin Herbert Having A Down 2023 Season?

As the Los Angeles Chargers get a test against the first-place Detroit Lions on Sunday, quarterback Justin Herbert is preparing for one of his biggest opponents this season, outside of his division.

Herbert and the Chargers are coming off two blowout wins in primetime over the last couple of weeks.

On Monday, Los Angeles defeated the New York Jets 27-6 in the Big Apple and a week before that, the Chargers secured a 30-13 victory against the Chicago Bears inside SoFi Stadium on Sunday Night Football.

Has Justin Herbert Had A Down 2023 For The Los Angeles Chargers?

However, as the Chargers are 4-4 reaching the midway, Herbert is not currently on track to reach some of the marks he’s reached the past couple of seasons.

Through eight games, the Oregon alum is right around his career completion rate at 67% but currently sits at 2,026 yards, which ranks 12th in the league.

Last year, Herbert recorded 2,254 yards through eight games before finishing up with 4,739 passing yards during the entire season.

What is also telling is that Herbert has recorded four passer ratings between 65 and 84 in the last five games.

Related: 5 Things The Chargers Must Do To Beat The Lions

Furthermore, within those four games, he completed 22 or fewer passes and had a completion percentage under 60%.

However, the Chargers are 2-2 in those four games. Those two wins have come against Las Vegas and the New York Jets while the two losses came in back-to-back weeks against Dallas and Kansas City.

A large part of his lowered production has been due to his fractured left middle finger, which continues to improve.

“It’s getting better every day,” Herbert said Wednesday. “We’re coming up on six weeks. The bone will be healed pretty soon and still taking care of it, doing everything I can to be safe out there. The trainers have done a great job of handling that, so I appreciate that.”

Although Herbert has gone through the finger injury that has limited him a little, the game script during each matchup has not always had to lean on Herbert’s arm.

For example, this past week against the Jets, the victory was dominated by the defense and special teams, as they recorded eight sacks, three fumble recoveries, and a punt return touchdown. That was partially why Herbert only completed 16-of-30 pass attempts for 136 yards.

Herbert said the defense he goes up against also plays into what he can do.

“Games like that can be frustrating,” Herbert said Wednesday of the Jets, who allow 19.5 points per game, the eighth-best mark in the league. “That’s a really good defense. As long as we’re not turning the ball over and we’re doing our best to score in the red zone, that’s all you can ask for.

“The defense and special teams helped us out a lot.”

The three takeaways from Monday night raised the team’s turnover margin to plus-9, which is tied for the NFL lead with Cincinnati.  The Chargers have recorded a combined 15 interceptions and fumbles and have only given up four picks and two fumbles.

As a result, the turnovers on defense and the strong special team plays have kept the Chargers in games and provided opportunities for Herbert and the offense.

Heightened Goals For The Los Angeles Chargers

The down year from Herbert comes from the expectations set on him and the team.

During the offseason, the Chargers made Herbert the highest-paid player in franchise history after three seasons of football that saw him go to his first Pro Bowl and earn 2020 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.

In addition, as a team, Los Angeles has Super Bowl aspirations, which come with taking down Patrick Mahomes and the reigning champions in Kansas City.

Being 4-4 is a lot different than being 6-2 or 7-1 as their first three losses came in one-possession fashion, losing 36-34 to Miami, 27-24 to Tennessee within the first two weeks of the season, and losing 20-17 to Dallas on Oct. 16.

Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley said his team cannot dwindle on the past nor the future, just what is directly ahead.

“The NFL demands your respect today,” Staley said Wednesday. “Not like predicting what’s going on this Sunday or what’s happening a couple weeks from now.

“You have to have that mindset of taking it one day at a time. That’s what is going to get you to the game and give you a chance to play at a high level.”