Justin Herbert elite status in 2021?
By: Eli Grabanski
Justin Herbert had a season for the record books in 2020, where he had the most passing touchdowns (31) and completions (396) by a rookie QB ever. The Chargers quarterback will be just 23 years old during the 2021 season, and now the question is what is in store for Justin Herbert entering his sophomore year: a sophomore slump or sophomore stardom? This article will give you reasons why Justin Herbert will take another step forward in 2021 and break the 5000+ passing yards barrier in year two.
The Talent & Baseline
Last year Herbert played in 15 games putting up a stat line of 396 completions on 595 passing attempts for 4336 passing yards and 31 passing touchdowns (he also threw just 10 interceptions). On a per-game basis, this was an impressive 26.4 completions on 39.7 passing attempts for 289.1 passing yards and 2.07 passing touchdowns (0.67 interceptions).
|Justin Herbert Per-Game Stats|
|Year||Completions||Attempts||Passing Yards||Passing Touchdowns||Interceptions|
This means that if Herbert were to put up the exact same per-game averages in 2021 as he did in 2020, with the new 17 game season he would end up throwing for 4915 passing yards. This means that if Herbert just makes some minor improvements to his game or sees some improvements in his situation, 5000 passing yards will be very achievable.
Pass-Happy Offensive Coordinator
|Joe Lombardi’s Career Per-Game Averages (OC/HC)|
|Year||Games||Team Pass Att.||Team Pass Yds.||Team Pass TDs|
|2014 Lions Offensive Coordinator||16||37.75||267.75||1.38|
|2015 Lions Offensive Coordinator||7||43||293.86||1.86|
|Joe Lombardi’s Career Averages (OC/HC)||23||39.35||275.7||1.52|
The Chargers hired Joe Lombardi to be the team’s new offensive coordinator. Over the course of 23 games that Joe Lombardi was the Detroit Lions offensive coordinator, the team averaged 39.35 pass attempts per game.
In fact, Joe Lombardi’s offenses average the most passing attempts among the 42 offensive coordinators and offensive-minded head coaches with previous NFL experience as a play-caller. Pairing a historically pass-happy offensive coordinator in Joe Lombardi with Justin Herbert, who threw the ball 595 times in just 15 games last year (39.67 per game) means that Herbert will get plenty of volume once again in 2021. This volume will make it easier for Herbert to put up impressive passing numbers.
Improved Offensive Line
In 2020, the Chargers had the worst offensive line in football according to PFF. They decided to address the line this offseason by picking up Corey Linsley in free agency (89.9 PFF grade on 734 snaps last year) and drafting offensive tackle Rashawn Slater in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Both of these players should provide a major boost to the line and give Herbert more time to throw in 2021.
The Chargers may have lost Hunter Henry this past offseason, but other than that they managed to keep all their key weapons with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler returning for 2021.
|2021 Los Angeles Chargers Weapons (2020 Stats)|
|Player||Games||Receptions||Targets||Receiving Yards||Receiving Touchdowns|
|KJ Hill Jr.||15||7||11||73||0|
|Donald Parham Jr.||13||10||20||159||3|
Herbert won’t be left on an island this season like some other NFL quarterbacks as he has a bunch of quality receiving options. Having these great pass-catching threats will give Herbert the help he needs to put up massive passing numbers this season, and realistically challenge for 5000+ passing yards.
Overall, Justin Herbert is an impressive quarterback talent who should be in an even better situation in 2021 to put up big passing numbers. This combination of talent, situation, and a 17 game season give Herbert a phenomenal chance at throwing for 5000+ passing yards and cementing his spot among the best quarterbacks in the NFL.