What Can We Expect From Justin Herbert In Year Two?
The Chargers quarterback heads into his second NFL season coming off the most successful rookie quarterback season in the history of the league. He is the record holder for numerous rookie season records with most completions in a season (396), most passing touchdowns in a season (31), most total touchdowns in a season (36), most 300-yard passing games (eight), most multi-touchdown passing games (10) and most three-touchdown passing games (six). It’s no secret that Anthony Lynn robbed Herbert for most passing yards in a season by not starting him in the first game of the 2020 season against the Cincinnati Bengals. He fell just 36 yards short of the last major record and had a chance to face off against Joe Burrow as the top two quarterbacks of that draft class.
What can we expect of Herbert in year two?
Increase in passing attempts
If the first preseason game is any indication of how the Los Angeles Charger’s offense will be deployed, there is going to be an increase in passing attempts by Herbert. On the first drive alone, Joe Lombardi called a passing play on six of their seven total first-down attempts. If Brandon Staley wants to be an analytically driven team, then not being too predictable, especially on early downs, is going to be a point of emphasis. Additionally, looking at Lombardi’s time with the New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees had over 635 passing attempts in nine different seasons. If Lombardi is bringing the Saints offense to Los Angeles, you can expect the Chargers to be run very similarly. This offense is going to run through Herbert, so expect Herbert’s passing attempts to increase over his 595 attempts from a season ago, especially with the extra 17th game. (Staley also alluded to a pass-centric offense in the teaser of the team’s new “All In” promo.)
Herbert was the most efficient quarterback while pressured last season, generating a 75.4 passing grade. As great as he was under pressure, that is not a metric that is generally stable from year to year. It also does not bode well with his health. Herbert had the NFL’s worst-graded offensive line last year. To help their young quarterback, Tom Telesco replaced four out of five starters from the 2020 season. This should in theory keep Herbert upright and allow passing concepts to develop in front of him. The Chargers will get Austin Ekeler back at full health who is one of the better running backs at catching passes out of the backfield. They also drafted Josh Palmer who has been having a terrific camp so far. The Chargers will also get continued development of tight end Donald Parham and wide receiver Tyron Johnson. Herbert is in no shortage of weapons, will get improved pass protection and the new scheme that will be employed will benefit the young quarterback.
The new scheme will be an advantage
Going back to Lombardi’s time with the Saints, Brees benefited greatly from the scheme Sean Payton ran in New Orleans. As a Payton disciple, you can expect Lombardi to deploy an offense with tempo and multiple formations on the offensive side of the ball. The concept of blitzing the defense is to force the defense into certain packages that benefit the offense by creating mismatches on that side of the ball. Getting Keenan Allen matched up with a linebacker because the defense was not able to get the right personnel in is the type of matchup that Herbert can take advantage of. This extends to Ekeler and Justin Jackson who have the ability to split out wide. The Chargers will force more matchup problems this season than they have in the past, which creates unique opportunities in the passing game.
End of season award?
With more passing attempts, mixed with efficiency and matchup problems for defenses, is it really that far-fetched to think that Herbert can win the NFL’s most prestigious award? Herbert’s odds to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award currently stands 20/1 or +2000. That is currently ranked for 8th best in the NFL. He ranks just behind Tom Brady (+1600), Matthew Stafford (+1600), Russell Wilson (+1600), and Lamar Jackson (+1800). He has a bright offensive mind in Lombardi, with a great supporting cast that includes Allen and Ekeler, with a revamped offensive line. Herbert is on track to build on his Rookie of the Year award. It’s time to start the chant:
MVP, MVP, MVP…