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Justin Herbert Player Profile

As the starting quarterback for the Los Angeles Chargers, Justin Herbert is the face of the franchise. Quarterback is often considered to be one of, if not THE most important position in all of the professional sports. Not only do they receive all of the praise when their team does well, but they will also receive all of the blame when their team struggles. They also act as the bona fide leader of their team’s offense, so a quarterback with good leadership qualities is paramount. That said, what qualities does Herbert possess that make him so valuable? What issues does Herbert need to work on improving? This is the Justin Herbert player profile.

Strengths

Strong Arm

Arm strength is among the first things that come to mind when the topic of Justin Herbert comes up. Herbert is among the league’s best when it comes to arm strength. Even some of his draft profiles coming out of college praise his fantastic arm strength. Some of the nicknames bestowed upon his strong arm include: rocket, cannon, and even Howitzer.

Having a strong arm can come with many advantages for a quarterback. With such a strong arm, Herbert is able to throw the ball to anywhere on the field. This opens up the playbook for offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi to dial up some deep passes, as Chargers fans saw plenty of this season. However, as can be seen later, that arm strength can lead to its own set of issues, similar to a double-edged sword.

Commanding On-Field Presence

Justin Herbert running with the ball


Justin Herbert’s high-intensity playstyle and hard-working nature make him a fantastic leader by example. (Aaron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Off the field, Justin Herbert is a humble, likable guy who always tries to hide from the cameras. On the field, though, he is a completely different person. When Herbert lines up under center, he becomes laser-focused. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, when asked about Justin Herbert in training camp, said, “(Herbert)’s a competitor. When the intensity level rises, his does, too. It’s been good. It’s been good to get out here and see these guys run around.”

As that quote implies, Herbert’s intensity and on-field presence can be inspiring. If the leader of the offense shows confidence and intensity, it’s natural that his teammates will follow suit. After all, what good would it do for only the quarterback to have that strong will to win?

High Intelligence

Herbert’s bold playstyle and ‘gunslinger’ mentality may suggest recklessness. However, being a bold player does not necessarily mean foolish. In fact, Justin Herbert, along with his strong arm and on-field intensity, is among the smartest quarterbacks in the game.

The Wonderlic Test is a mental aptitude test held at the NFL Combine every year. While the actual value and validity of the test is certainly up for debate, what is not debatable is how highly regarded the test is among NFL scouts. According to the Wonderlic Test Prep website, a “good score” is considered to be 26/50 or higher.

With that information established, let’s get back to Justin Herbert. Herbert scored a 39/50 on the Wonderlic test, which is well above the “good score” metric shared by the Wonderlic Test Prep professionals. While he wasn’t the highest-scoring quarterback of the 2020 draft class (that honor goes to former Iowa, current Minnesota Vikings quarterback Nate Stanley with a score of 40), it’s still exceedingly high compared to many of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Couple this high IQ with his high intensity and gifted arm strength, and it’s a wonder why the Miami Dolphins ever passed on him for Tua Tagovailoa.

Weaknesses

Too Much Arm Strength?

Justin Herbert throwing the ball
Justin Herbert’s arm strength can be both a blessing and a curse. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

As mentioned before, the sheer strength of his passes can also be a curse. While Herbert is fully capable of throwing absolute lasers down the field, this actually poses a bit of a problem in short-to-mid-range throws. This past season, Chargers receivers led the league in drops with 33. In fact, Chargers pass-catchers dropped so many passes, that the gap between the Chargers and second-place Carolina Panthers (28) is larger than the gap between the Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (24), who are tied for seventh.

There are several possible explanations for this. One of those reasons could be Chargers receivers simply needing more practice on the Jugs machines. In fact, that’s exactly what Chargers star wideout Keenan Allen said in regards to this topic. When asked whether Herbert throws the ball too hard for his receivers to catch the ball, Allen said, “He throwing the ball to you, you better catch that s***. I want the ball. Throw that motherf***** however you want to throw it.” Watch the clip here.

Another possible explanation, regardless of what Allen said, is that Herbert does throw the ball too hard. However, the explanation which seems to be most likely is that maybe it’s simply a mix of both. Perhaps Herbert does throw the ball a bit too hard, and the Chargers receivers are having their catching issues intensified by those hard throws.

Reckless Playstyle

Justin Herbert throwing a near-interception
Justin Herbert’s “gunslinger” mentality can sometimes get punished by more talented defenses. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

Justin Herbert completely embodies the “gunslinger mentality” that talking heads in sports media circles parrot about. “Gunslinger mentality” refers to quarterbacks who have strong, accurate arms and aggressive, decisive mindsets. While these quarterbacks typically do very well in their careers (think: Brett Favre), oftentimes the risk that comes with such an aggressive mindset can be costly for the team in the long run. These quarterbacks are more likely than non-gunslingers to make turnovers in crucial moments.

Herbert, unfortunately, fits the bill for a gunslinger. From time to time, Herbert will try to make difficult throws, which are naturally more risky than the safer options. Of course, Herbert’s skill ensures that he still often succeeds in these situations, but it would help reduce his turnover rates overall. Last season, Justin Herbert was tied for third-most interceptions with 15. He did improve on his fumble issue from the 2020 season, cutting down his fumble count from 8 in 2020 to 1 in 2021(in which he played two extra games). However, throwing 15 interceptions is certainly concerning.

Summary

Herbert received heaps of praise this season for his improvements over an already-impressive rookie campaign. And there’s a very good reason for it. Herbert was one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns. And now, Herbert can finally get some stability on the side of coaching. With the departure of Anthony Lynn before the 2021 season and the hiring of Brandon Staley, Herbert was forced to learn two entirely different offensive schemes and playbooks in his first two seasons. Now, though, Herbert has another season to spend with Staley and Joe Lombardi, so he won’t need to devote much of his offseason time to learning the playbook again. He can focus solely on improving his play. This has been the Justin Herbert player profile.




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