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Takeaways from Justin Herbert’s NFL debut that Duck fans already knew

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Sco Chargers!

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Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Former Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert was as surprised as the Chargers’ fan base to learn that he would be the starter in week two against last season’s Super Bowl champions. Tyrod Taylor has since healed from his surprising chest injury, and coach Anthony Lynn has said that he’s still the Chargers’ starter despite Herbert’s impressive debut.

Finishing 22 of 33 for 311 yards in the air, 18 yards on the ground, two total touchdowns and one costly interception, Herbert nearly pulled off the upset against the Chiefs and fans of the NFL are suddenly very aware of the rookie quarterback’s upside.

If you’d like to learn more about this hometown hero, pull up a seat and listen to the original Herbert fan club.


That guy’s got an arm!

One of the reasons why Justin Herbert went 6th overall in the 2020 NFL Draft is his impressive arm cannon. Even as a freshman, the Eugene native earned praise for his arm strength, and though many notable quarterbacks sat out during the combine, Herbert gained a lot of attention for his crisp and accurate passes.

Of course, as Duck fans, we already knew that the kid could sling the rock with the best of them. When it came to deep passes he would occasionally get in trouble by waiting for his man to get open as oppose to leading them downfield, but that was more of a mental flaw than a physical one.

He completed 67% of his passes for 32 touchdowns and six interceptions in 2019. Check the tape; Herbert can make any throw you ask of him, and when he’s comfortable he can pick apart a secondary with deadly accuracy.


Runs like a freight train downhill

Herbert’s first NFL touchdown came via his legs. To look at the QB’s senior season run stats (58 attempts, 50 yards, four touchdowns) one could come to the conclusion that he’s an adequate but unspectacular runner.

However, after a collarbone injury suffered against Cal in 2017 sidelined him for five games, it’s safe to assume that coach Mario Cristobal elected to protect his star player by limiting the amount of designated QB run plays. But when contests were especially close during the 2019 season, Herbert helped out the offense by picking up first downs with his feet. And in his final game as a Duck, against a Wisconsin defense that was particularly adept at stopping the run, Herbert ran for 47 yards and three touchdowns.

He clocked in at an unofficial 4.69, but more importantly, he possesses the size to be a threat at the goal line. Which brings us to our next observation...


Herbert hits like a truck

At 6-foot-6, 236 pounds, Herbert potentially can be used in a similar fashion as Cam Newton - though the famously mediocre Chargers offensive line will likely snuff out that possibility. Still, while Herbert lacks the escapability of some of the NFL’s more agile QBs, he has the speed to be a real threat on the ground and a large enough frame to provide the durability you want in a starting quarterback .

In fact, Chiefs linebacker Damien Wilson knocked himself out on a big hit to Herbert, while the rookie QB popped back up and led a drive that finished with his first NFL touchdown pass - a 14-yard dime that found Jalen Guyton in the end zone.


Good for at least a couple baffling throws per game

Ask Hythloday, ATQ’s resident film reviewer, about his experience studying Justin Herbert and they’re likely to tell you that it’s been an exhausting experience. Not because of a lack of talent, as the world now knows that Herbert has the potential to be an NFL standout even in his rookie year, but because of his random bouts of bad play.

Herbert’s interception late in the third quarter gave the Chiefs the momentum they needed to force overtime and ultimately spoil the young QB’s debut. What led so many armchair analysts to shout ‘rookie mistake’ at their screen has been an unfortunate staple of Herbert’s career - sometimes the quarterback makes some truly head-scratching decisions.

With nothing but open field in front of him, Herbert decided to throw on the run to a double-covered Keenan Allen instead of continuing course and picking up the easy first down. While Charger fans shouldn’t expect a Jameis Winston level of chaos from Herbert, they shouldn’t be surprised when he misses a seemingly simple crosser right after nailing a one-in-a-million bomb deep downfield.

Basically, Herbert is like a box of chocolates.


Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual - Oregon v Wisconsin Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

He’s really easy to root for

After Tyrod Taylor’s underwhelming week one performance, the notion of Herbert as a starter began to pick up steam. The situation was reminiscent of Herbert’s freshman season.

After Oregon fell to the Colorado Buffaloes in Autzen behind the lackluster performance of grad transfer quarterback Dakota Prukop, true-freshman Herbert earned his first start of the season against the Washington Huskies.

Though the results of the rivalry game escapes me (probably a dominating Oregon victory), Herbert went on to post record-setting numbers against California (six touchdowns) and Arizona State (489 passing yards). While some of the more muscle-headed fans decried what they believe to be a lack of ‘vocal leadership,’ it is undeniable that his four years as a starter was a major factor in Oregon’s return to relevancy.

His legacy as a Charger is yet to be decided, but fans of the franchise should at least know this: you got a great human being in Herbert.