Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers

The Parts Have Talent, The Whole Might Be Overrated

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The Chargers are the football community's favorite trick to fall for. Year after year, fans and media alike rally behind the Bolts for one reason or another, usually because of everyone's infatuation with Philip Rivers and his many bolo ties. Though there is a new quarterback behind center now, the same old Chargers charm remains. The Chargers are almost universally expected to be among this year's rising stars.

It is easy to see why many think this may be the year Lucy lets Charlie Brown kick the football, too. The majority of recent teams to suddenly shoot into elite territory have done so off the back of top-class play from their quarterbacks in Year 2. Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson are the most obvious and recent examples, but the 2017 Eagles and Rams with Carson Wentz and Jared Goff fall into the same bin. Justin Herbert, at least more so than his peers in the 2020 quarterback class, is an exciting candidate to make that second-year leap.

Herbert was the third quarterback selected in the 2020 draft but played like the first overall pick as a rookie. After sitting on the bench for the season opener, he took over the starting job in Week 2 under extremely Charger-esque conditions: starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor had his lung accidentally punctured by a team doctor right before kickoff.

Few expected Herbert to be ready, both in a broader sense and on such short notice, but he went 22-of-33 for 311 yards with one touchdown and an interception. He even tacked on a rushing touchdown as evidence of his dual-threat ability. The Chargers lost that Week 2 game against the Chiefs, as well as the following three matches, but it became clear pretty quickly that Herbert was an NFL player. Eventually, Herbert finished the season with one of the top 10 passing DYAR totals ever put up by a rookie quarterback (Table 1).


Football Outsiders Almanac 2021 Los Angeles Chargers


Herbert's sudden success then raised the question of why he fell in the draft the way he did. Granted, he was still a top-10 pick and not...