How Does Justin Herbert Compare To Drew Lock?

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Los Angeles Chargers Quarterback Justin Herbert. Photo Credit: Az Skies Photography | Under Creative Commons License

Yes, I know that Justin Herbert is putting up huge numbers. Yes, I know that Drew Lock looks like another one of Elway’s failed quarterback experiments. The common football fan knows how amazing Herbert has performed this season. No one is making the case that Lock is the better quarterback. But without accounting for stats, how does Justin Herbert compare to Drew Lock? Below I will break down both quarterbacks’ strengths, weaknesses, and supporting casts.

How Does Justin Herbert Compare To Drew Lock?

Decision Making

Justin Herbert: Herbert has looked phenomenal and with 0 turnovers in the last 2 games, it’s clear that his decision making has improved throughout the season. Versus Kansas City and Carolina, there were a few ill-advised throws into double coverage where he simply did not have to throw the ball. Herbert has eliminated those mistakes so far. At times you can see Herbert rolling out and looking to throw a pass deep or across the field. In the first couple of games, Herbert throws that pass, and it likely results in an interception. Recently he has done a good job of throwing the ball away or taking the check down.

One area Herbert could improve on is how long he holds on to the ball on his throws further downfield. Herbert already looks like one of the best deep throwers in the league but at times it seems like he holds on to the ball too long when in reality, the ball could be out of his hand sooner. Denver averages three sacks a game and with uncertainty along the offensive line this week, Herbert should be getting the ball out of his hand quick against Denver.

Drew Lock: Lock has not been on the same level as Herbert this season. His decision-making isn’t a major weakness but it is something that can be improved upon. Like Herbert, Lock holds on to the ball for too long. Unlike Herbert, Lock’s reluctance to get rid of the ball quick occurs on throws at each level of the field.

Against the Patriots, Lock had multiple missed opportunities. While he picked the right receivers to throw to, he was too late throwing the ball in many cases, resulting in the defensive backs being able to make up ground on the receivers. Lock was essentially making it harder on himself by holding the ball for so long. If he gets the ball out quick, a lot of those incomplete passes on Sunday would have been huge gains.


Justin Herbert: Herbert has been fairly accurate this season. There’s not a whole lot to complain about regarding this aspect of his game. One area he could improve on is making sure he’s properly aligning his feet to his receivers. This seemed to limit his accuracy in overtime against the Saints and in the first half against the Jaguars. Both were solid games on the stat sheet for Herbert but he could take that next step when he keeps his composure in his lower half. This could be caused by trying to get the ball out too quick and relying too much on his arm.

It’s much harder to complete a pass across your body and sometimes this appears to be what Herbert attempts to do on routes breaking towards the sidelines. Again, it isn’t common that Herbert gets sloppy with his footwork on throws but it is something to look for on Sunday if the Broncos start getting pressure on him.

Drew Lock: Stats can be misleading. Drew Lock currently ranks dead last in the league among starting quarterbacks in completion percentage. As I mentioned above, Lock makes many throws harder on himself by holding on to the ball too long. Putting that fact aside, Lock has still made impressive throws in these circumstances. Two throws stand out to me from his performance against the Patriots.

The first throw was a fade to Tim Patrick. Lock holds onto the ball too long resulting in the safety and corner gaining ground on Patrick as the separation between him and the sideline also reduces. This results in Lock having to make what is considered a “hole shot” throw. Lock gets the ball there and the result of the play is a long completion along the sideline and a rattled Patrick who just took a huge shot. If Lock gets the ball out quicker on that play, Patrick runs under the throw and possibly beats the safety to the pylon.

The second throw was a throw to the end zone on a chair route to Albert Okwuegbunam. Lock threw the ball as soon as Albert O. made his break. With little separation between the receiver and the back of the end zone, Lock is forced to throw the ball right at the back of the defender’s helmet. This throw gives the receiver a chance but also requires a great deal of physicality and concentration from the receiver to make the catch. If Lock gets the ball out before the receiver makes his break and throws it with a little loft, Albert O. would have the opportunity to catch the ball over his shoulder instead of over the head of a defensive back.

Moral of the story is, Lock’s accuracy is solid but is held back by his lack of decisiveness when throwing the ball.

Arm Strength

Justin Herbert: This is arguably Herbert’s greatest strength as a quarterback. Obviously, Herbert’s passes over 50 yards are a great indicator of how strong Herbert’s arm is but one play in particular really highlights his ability. Herbert’s touchdown pass to Keenan Allen versus the Saints was one of the most impressive plays by a quarterback I’ve ever seen.

As Herbert recovered a low snap to the right of his body, he rolled to the right as he attempted to avoid oncoming pass rushers. Facing pressure from the left and front side left, Herbert drifted right and backward throwing off his back foot. For a large majority of the quarterbacks in the NFL, this throw results in an interception. Instead, Herbert zips the ball 30 yards on a line to Keenan Allen. Many quarterbacks can throw the ball 50 yards downfield. Few can make the throw that Herbert completed to Keenan Allen.

Drew Lock: Coming out of college, Lock’s arm was one of the strongest aspects of his game. While he’s not quite on the same level as Herbert in that regard, he can still make the throws that most can’t. Lock is able to complete many of his passes into tight windows because of his arm strength. While Lock has yet to truly air one out, he certainly has the arm to do so.


Justin Herbert: No game better illustrates Herbert’s mobility than his Rose Bowl game versus Wisconsin. Herbert didn’t light up the stat sheet in this regard which is yet another reason why stats are misleading. 29 yards isn’t on the same level as the likes of Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray and that’s because Herbert isn’t on that level. That doesn’t mean that Herbert can’t use his legs to move the chains.

His 29 rushing yards actually led to three touchdowns and a Rose Bowl MVP on a day where his passing was sub-par. Herbert’s mobility really comes into play when pass protection starts to break down. His ability to feel the pressure and escape the pocket while delivering a strike down the field has proven to be a major asset for the Chargers.

While Herbert’s beatdowns of smaller defenders is admirable, it would be in his best interests to slide or run out of bounds to avoid contact rather than absorbing massive hits like he has tended to do. Overall, his mobility has been especially helpful when the offense seemed to have stagnated at times.

Drew Lock: Lock is similar to Herbert in terms of mobility but it is fair to say Lock is a scrappier runner. Sometimes his inclination to run can lead him into taking sacks and losing major yardage. Other times, it seems like he manages to turn broken plays into solid gains. Many Chargers fans remember the way he made the defense look silly in his first game starting. Watching Joey Bosa get juked out on what looked like a sure sack left a bad taste in the mouths of many. Lock’s mobility is closer to a Deshaun Watson like impact on his team although resulting in more negative plays.

Supporting Cast

Justin Herbert: The Chargers offensive line this season has been shuffled more than I can count. It’s unknown what the left side of the line will look like this week. Surprisingly, this shuffling hasn’t resulted in a completely horrendous offensive line.

The Herbert/Allen connection is strong and will only get stronger each game. He seems comfortable spreading the ball around on offense and for the most part, the receivers have been making the most of their opportunities.

With the injury of Austin Ekeler, the Chargers’ run game has taken a hit. Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley have yet to have made an impact on the ground, making it hard for the offense to keep the defense on its toes. Luckily, Herbert has been great when the team has had to rely on him but how long can he keep it up without a consistent run game?

Drew Lock: The Broncos’ offensive line hasn’t been great but it has been improving with a lot of young guys starting. While they have allowed many sacks, a good amount of these could be due to the quarterbacks holding the ball too long. Three quarterbacks have started for the Broncos this year and with inexperience in a new offensive system comes a reluctance to throw the ball.

The Broncos lost a huge piece of their receiving core when Courtland Sutton tore his ACL. The Broncos have yet to see one of their young receivers step up to replace Sutton’s role as WR1.

The Broncos’ run game isn’t explosive but it certainly is consistent. Led by Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay, the Broncos could pose a challenge to the Chargers’ defense this weekend, especially if Lindsay suits up.

Overall: Justin Herbert is without a doubt the better quarterback but Lock is not nearly as bad as he has been made out to be. Herbert has the advantage in the matchup but Lock has the ability to make this a close game and potentially a disappointing game if he is able to get off to a hot start.

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Los Angeles Chargers Quarterback Justin Herbert. Photo Credit: Az Skies Photography | Under Creative Commons License