Justin Herbert

Chargers To Keep Justin Herbert As Starter

Anthony Lynn has acknowledged what became known fairly early in Justin Herbert‘s three-game run subbing for an injured Tyrod Taylor. The fourth-year Chargers HC confirmed the quarterback job is Herbert’s going forward.

Lynn had previously kept the door open for Taylor to reclaim the job when he recovered from the chest injury a pregame shot aggravated just before the Bolts’ Week 2 game. In stepped Herbert, a rookie who was a candidate to sit behind Taylor for many games this season. But the rookie has outperformed expectations and will keep the starting job.

This represents another abrupt end to a Taylor bridge-QB period. The Browns moved to Baker Mayfield in Week 3 of the 2018 season, and Taylor did not start another game in a one-season Cleveland stay. His 2020 starting stint did not end up lasting that long. Taylor, who backed up Philip Rivers in 2019, will return to a QB2 role. Taylor, who started under Lynn in Buffalo during a three-season run as the team’s top quarterback, has not dressed since a lung-puncturing chest injection paused his season.

Although Herbert was linked to the Dolphins at No. 5 overall at points leading up to the draft, Scouts Inc. ranked the Oregon passer far behind Tua Tagovailoa overall. When the Dolphins drafted Tagovailoa, the Bolts quickly nabbed Herbert at No. 6. So far, the 6-foot-6 prospect has impressed. In Week 4, he helped the Bolts gain a three-score lead on the Buccaneers in a game that featured three Herbert touchdown passes — to UDFAs Tyron Johnson, Donald Parham and Jalen Guyton — and an 80% completion rate. Through three games, Herbert ranks 12th in QBR.

Herbert being ahead of the curve, despite some skepticism coming out of the draft and an offseason altered by the pandemic, would be a major win for a Chargers team that has enjoyed QB stability for most of this century. The Bolts signed a few 30-something veteran starters best suited to play for a contending team now. While the Chargers are 1-3, Herbert’s early promise would help the likes of Bryan Bulaga, Linval Joseph and Chris Harris contribute to a contender either in 2020 or ’21 — rather than play for a team dealing with uncertainty at quarterback.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Chargers’ QB Tyrod Taylor

We already knew that Chargers QB Tyrod Taylor would be unavailable for the team’s contest against the Panthers this afternoon, and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports that the veteran signal-caller will also miss next Sunday’s game against the Bucs. Rookie Justin Herbert will continue to get the call in Taylor’s absence.

Taylor, of course, suffered a punctured lung at the hands of a team doctor last week when the doctor was administering a pain-killing shot for Taylor’s rib injury. Schefter reported a few days ago that the NFLPA was looking into the matter, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports elaborated on that point this morning.

According to La Canfora, the union is seeking clarity on the timeline of events, whether there was any negligence or malpractice on the part of the doctor, and whether Taylor is now more susceptible to long-term injuries as a result of any such negligence. The investigation will also focus on how Taylor’s future earning potential might have been impacted.

Indeed, while the Chargers continue to insist that Taylor will be reinstated as the starting QB when he is healthy enough to return, that will be a difficult sell for HC Anthony Lynn if Herbert continues to play well. The rookie nearly pulled off an upset over the division rival Chiefs last week, and according to Schefter, his teammates already view him as a strong leader. So Taylor could point to the medical mishap as the turning point in his fortunes with the club.

On the other hand, the plan was always for Taylor, who is eligible for free agency next year, to serve as a bridge to Herbert. So as long as Taylor’s punctured lung did not cause any lasting damage, it seems as if the team would have a good chance of defeating any earnings loss claim that the union might bring on Taylor’s behalf.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chargers’ Tyrod Taylor Has Punctured Lung

A Chargers team doctor accidentally punctured quarterback Tyrod Taylor‘s lung just prior to Sunday’s game while administering a pain-killing shot, sources tell ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (Twitter links). Taylor was preparing to play through broken ribs before matters were made worse by the complication. 

Taylor is now looking at an extended absence and doctors have advised him to stay home “indefinitely,” according to Schefter. Rookie Justin Herbert — who was thrust into action against the Chiefs — is now slated to start against the Panthers on Sunday. Odds are, Taylor will need even more time to heal after that point.

The NFLPA is looking into the matter, Schefter hears. Meanwhile, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn insists that Taylor will resume his role as the team’s starter once he’s able to return to the field. For what it’s worth, the Bolts pushed the defending champs to overtime on Sunday with Herbert under center. If he’s able to keep up the good work, the Chargers could be looking at a tricky situation when Taylor is finally cleared.

Taylor, 31, was a three-year starter for the Bills between 2015 and 2017. During his 2015 Pro Bowl campaign, Taylor averaged 8.0 yards per pass, threw 20 touchdown passes, six interceptions and ran for 568 yards. All in all, he owns a career 23-21-1 record as a starter. Taylor is historically safe with the football: among quarterbacks with at least 1,000 attempts since 2015, Taylor ranks third in interception percentage.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC West Notes: Bolts, Broncos, Incognito

Tyrod Taylor could be on the verge of being benched in September for a second time in three seasons. A chest injury he was battling caused Justin Herbert to be called upon Sunday, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo report Taylor received a pregame injection to the area (Twitter link). Complications ensued, prompting Chargers HC Anthony Lynn to call on Herbert. While the No. 6 overall pick fared better than could be expected, given the lack of offseason prep time, Lynn has not named him the Chargers’ Week 3 starter. The fourth-year coach said he will turn back to Taylor when he is “100%” recovered from the chest setback.

Whether “100%” will be how the Bolts justify keeping Herbert in the lineup or not, it would seem difficult for the team to give the job back to its bridge starter. The Chargers drafted a quarterback in the first four rounds for the first time since 2006 and saw him throw for 311 yards in an overtime loss, making it entirely possible Taylor is benched again. The Browns sidelined Taylor after three starts in 2017.

Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • Von Miller has not given up on returning this season. The Broncos‘ future Hall of Fame linebacker has been studying how some non-NFL athletes returned in three months from the injury he suffered — as opposed to the four- to six-month timetable he was given after suffering a dislocated peroneal tendon — and has told teammates he could return in mid-December, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. However, since this report surfaced, the Broncos lost Drew Lock for perhaps more than a month and Courtland Sutton for the season. They are already down A.J. Bouye and Phillip Lindsay for the foreseeable future, making a playoff run more difficult to envision. As for Miller’s long-term future, the 31-year-old pass rusher has told teammates he is eyeing five or six more seasons, per La Canfora. This tracks with previous Miller plans.
  • Speaking of Lindsay, the Pro Bowl running back will almost certainly miss Week 3 and may be out longer. Rather than turf toe, Lindsay is dealing with a toe sprain, Rapoport notes. This represents a tough break for the UDFA success story, who was discussing an extension shortly after last season’s conclusion. However, the Broncos instead opted to sign Melvin Gordon to a two-year, $8MM deal. Lindsay is set for restricted free agency in 2021.
  • Brandon McManus‘ four-year, $17MM Broncos extension will guarantee the Denver kicker $4MM in 2021, but Mike Klis of 9News notes the deal’s final three seasons are not guaranteed (Twitter link). McManus is due to earn base salaries of $3MM (2022), $3.75MM (’23) and $3.95MM (’24) over the course of the deal, which also came with a $2.5MM signing bonus. The Broncos have used McManus as their kicker since 2014 but are not committed to him beyond 2021.
  • Richie Incognito left Monday night’s Raiders win with an Achilles issue, but the veteran guard may not miss any time. Incognito aggravated a previous injury but did not suffer a tear, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets. The Raiders were already down right tackle Trent Brown, due to a reportedly not serious calf injury, and backup tackle Sam Young against the Saints.

Justin Herbert Starts At QB For Chargers

The NFL debut of Justin Herbert is coming in unexpected fashion. Just moments before kickoff, the Chargers announced the rookie first-rounder would be making his first career start.

In an unusual situation, normal starter Tyrod Taylor apparently injured his chest during pregame warmups and needed to be pulled. That meant the sixth overall pick of April’s draft was suddenly thrust into his first real action without being prepped for it against the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs.

He certainly didn’t look overwhelmed initially, scoring a touchdown on his first pro drive. There’s no word yet on how serious the injury to Taylor is, but we’ll be sure to pass on word to you shortly. Taylor entered the season as the starter, but it was likely only a matter of time before the Oregon product took over anyway.

Los Angeles escaped with a narrow victory over the Bengals in Week 1, but Taylor didn’t play too well and failed to move the offense consistently. If Herbert plays well today against Kansas City he probably won’t be relinquishing the job regardless of Taylor’s health.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

QB Notes: Washington, Taylor, Ravens

Here are the latest developments from quarterback rooms around the league. At least 11 teams will go with different starting QBs compared to Week 1 of last season. Two teams confirmed they are going in that direction Wednesday:

  • Alex Smith has made a remarkable recovery, having returned to team drills after undergoing 17 surgeries to repair career-altering injuries. But Washington ended any suspense about its quarterback competition Wednesday, announcing Dwayne Haskins will start in Week 1. This was the expected route for the rebuilding team, which selected Haskins 15th overall last year. Kyle Allen is in line to back up the second-year player, with Smith looming as a wild card. The latter is guaranteed a $16MM base salary this season.
  • Hard Knocks has given more attention to Justin Herbert‘s throws, but Tyrod Taylor did not lose his job in the Chargers‘ abbreviated offseason. While the No. 6 overall pick looms, Anthony Lynn did not throw a curveball and named Taylor as his Week 1 starter. “Tyrod Taylor is our starter right now,” Lynn said, via ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez. “Until someone steps up and shows that they can run this team, that’s [how] we’re going into it.” Taylor was a Week 1 starter from 2015-18 and worked with Lynn in Buffalo from 2015-16. While Herbert should be expected to take this job at some point this season, Taylor may have it for longer than he held off Baker Mayfield two years ago in Cleveland.
  • In a lower-stakes competition, the Ravens have not decided on their third quarterback. Lamar Jackson and Robert Griffin III are locked in, but Baltimore’s QB3 race between Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley remains “up in the air,” Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com tweets. McSorley, a sixth-round 2019 pick out of Penn State, held this job last year. The Ravens signed Huntley as a UDFA out of Utah this year. The latter was a three-year starter for the Utes, though McSorley was the more productive college passer and rusher.
  • Both the Cowboys and Falcons changed up their quarterback depth charts Wednesday. The latter brought in a former Giants mid-round pick.

Chargers Sign Justin Herbert, Wrap Draft Class

The Chargers have wrapped up their 2020 NFL Draft class, per a club announcement. Quarterback Justin Herbert was the first reported signing, and the rest of the crop followed soon after. The full rundown, per our tracker:

1-6: Justin Herbert, QB (Oregon): Signed
1-23: Kenneth Murray, LB (Oklahoma): Signed
4-112: Joshua Kelley, RB (UCLA): Signed
5-151: Joe Reed, WR (Virginia): Signed
6-186: Alohi Gilman, S (Notre Dame): Signed
7-220: K.J. Hill, WR (Ohio State): Signed

Herbert was a polarizing prospect. Those that are high on the Oregon product believe that his elite arm strength will allow him to succeed as a starter. Others are concerned about his pension for holding on to the ball for too long. The debate between Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa was fierce, but, ultimately, the Dolphins made the decision for the Chargers by selecting the Alabama star No. 5 overall. At No. 6, GM Tom Telesco said that he would have been perfectly happy with either passer.

Herbert will have the unenviable task of eventually stepping into Philip Rivers’ shoes. For now, the 6’6″ rookie will likely begin the year as the QB2 behind Tyrod Taylor.

AFC West Notes: Bolts, Wilkinson, Raiders

The COVID-19 pandemic will make rookies’ transitions more difficult, and quarterbacks will face a tough learning curve. As a result, Tyrod Taylor is expected to open the season as the Chargers‘ starting quarterback, Daniel Popper of The Athletic writes (subscription required). That arrangement may continue for a while. No. 6 overall pick Justin Herbert will likely sit at least eight games, Popper predicts, noting that the Bolts are preaching patience with their first Round 1 quarterback pick in 16 years. Anthony Lynn said in early April that Taylor was the Bolts’ starter “for now.” Taylor is undoubtedly a bridge quarterback again, but this bridge may be longer than the one the Browns used to get to Baker Mayfield two years ago.

Let’s look at the latest from the Chiefs’ three challengers in the AFC West:

  • Defensive lineman Damion Square and the Chargers have expressed mutual interest about another contract, Popper notes. The Bolts originally picked up Square in 2014 and re-signed him in 2017 and ’19. The former UDFA would provide a veteran presence on a defensive line housing Pro Bowlers Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram and Linval Joseph up front but little experience behind them. Square, now 31, has seen time at defensive tackle and D-end with the Bolts. He started 11 games for the 2018 Chargers, registering three sacks that season.
  • The Broncos did not add a left tackle in the draft or free agency, planning instead to hold a Garett Bolles-vs.-Elijah Wilkinson competition for the job. The latter will be coming off surgery. Wilkinson underwent an ankle procedure in May, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic notes. Wilkinson, who filled in for Ja’Wuan James as Denver’s starting right tackle for almost all of last season, suffered a high ankle sprain in December. The ailment did not heal properly, postponing the fourth-year player’s recovery. Wilkinson, who signed his second-round RFA tender in April, still hopes to be ready for training camp.
  • Despite the coronavirus altering the construction of the Raiders‘ Allegiant Stadium, the team is eyeing July 31 as a completion date for the Las Vegas-based domed stadium’s “substantial construction,” Mick Akers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal notes. At least 16 workers have tested positive for COVID-19, and Akers adds the near-$2 billion project moved from two shifts to three to allow for social distancing.

Chargers Liked Tua Tagovailoa At No. 6

With the No. 6 pick in the NFL Draft, the Chargers found their new quarterback in Oregon product Justin Herbert. But, even if wasn’t there, GM Tom Telesco says he would have taken a QB, no matter what. 

We felt great about all three quarterbacks who went in the Top 6,” Telesco told Pat McAfee of Barstool Sports (Twitter link), referring to No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow and Dolphins choice Tua Tagovailoa. “Hopefully we won’t pick at No. 6 very often…if I do, I won’t be making very many picks hereIf you’re going to pick this high and there’s a potential franchise quarterback, you have to take him.”

Burrow to the Bengals was long considered a sure thing and Tagovailoa was connected to the Dolphins for months. As the draft drew closer, whispers of the Dolphins’ interest in Herbert grew louder and louder. And, days before the draft, there was talk of the Dolphins trading up to the No. 3 pick to select an offensive lineman, rather than a quarterback. That’s one rumor that Telesco didn’t bite on.

Every rumor I heard, I went through my head of, ‘How would we handle this if this happened?’,” Telesco told Pat McAfee. “Now, the whole, Miami taking a tackle at 3, maybe they really were, I just didn’t believe that one. You make plans, you talk with your head coach…you talk about trading up or down in certain situations. When you’re on the clock making the pick, you’re not discussing what you want to do, you’ve already decided.

The opinions on Herbert are pretty mixed in the football world. Those that are high on him believe that his elite arm strength will allow him to succeed as a starter. Others are concerned about his pension for holding on to the ball for too long in the pocket. At the same time, Tagovailoa’s health remains a major question mark moving forward and Telesco says he would have been happy with either QB as the heir to Philip Rivers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Rumors: Lions, 49ers, Giants

The Lions (No. 3) and 49ers (Nos. 13 and 31) appear to be the most aggressive teams when it comes to trading down, Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports hears (via Twitter). He also hears that the Lions aren’t getting much in the way of enticing offers, whereas the Niners could have possibilities for both picks.

We know that the Dolphins want Detroit’s No. 3, but they’re trying to pry it loose without sacrificing their No. 5 pick. That could mean a package including their two other first-round picks, plus more from their significant stockpile. The Lions, understandably, are not jumping at any offers that take them out of the Top 5.

Meanwhile, the 49ers’ pick at No. 13 could fetch a big haul, especially if they hold until this evening and wait for one of this year’s stud wide receivers to fall.

Here’s more from Robinson, with all links going to Twitter:

  • There’s talk of the Dolphins eyeing an offensive tackle with their No. 5 pick, but the teams surrounding them in the draft order don’t believe that’s the case (link). Most of Robinson’s sources seem to think that pick is destined for Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa. No matter what happens at #5, you can expect Miami to target tackles early on, especially since free agent pickup Ereck Flowers has been slotted for the interior.
  • Robinson isn’t sure what the Dolphins are going to do (same goes for everyone outside of their front office), but he senses that the Chargers are higher on Herbert than Tagovailoa (link). Robinson hears they like his makeup – Herbert has a cannon for an arm – and they’re skittish about Tagovailoa’s surgically-repaired hip. For what it’s worth, the Dolphins passed the Alabama star on his physical at the combine in February.
  • Assuming the Giants stay at No. 4, Robinson believes the conversation is down to Jedrick Wills Jr. and Tristan Wirfs (link). Some evaluators think Wirfs is better suited for guard, but the Giants believe that can be a strong tackle at the pro level.
  • With the draft drawing near, the Jaguars still aren’t getting any good bites on running back Leonard Fournette or defensive end Yannick Ngakoue (link). The Jags have been shopping Fournette for more than a month now; they might have scale back their asking price if they want to get a deal done. The Ngakoue market also seems pretty weak, though that has more to do with his contract demands. The Raiders touched base with the Jags on the franchise-tagged defensive end this week, but nothing’s brewing at the moment.