COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Justin Herbert has surprised many people with how quickly he has adjusted to the rigors of being a starting quarterback in the NFL.
So when it comes to the Los Angeles Chargers’ matchup on Sunday against Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami Dolphins, Herbert isn’t fazed about the attention that comes with the first matchup between the highly regarded rookies.
“I think you always kind of look at the quarterback matchup as one of those keys to victories,” Herbert said Wednesday. “But I think overall, it’s more about how the offense and defense plays. And so I think it’s the greater picture that’s more important.”
Whether it is answering questions or facing pass rushes, Herbert hasn’t buckled too often. He’s been at his best when facing pressure from opposing defenses.
Herbert is among the league’s highest-rated passers when being blitzed or being pressured in the pocket. Those stats take on more importance this week as the Chargers face the Dolphins and their strong defense.
“I’ve been able to have a good feel of being able to sit back and step up into the pocket. I think that’s really huge,” Herbert said. “Because if you’re sitting back too deep, the edge rushers are going to get you and they’re going to disrupt the passes.”
Herbert’s 121.3 passer rating against the blitz is third in the league, behind Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Las Vegas’ Derek Carr. Herbert’s seven TDs in that situation are tied for fifth. He has been picked off only once and sacked four times.
By contrast, Cincinnati rookie Joe Burrow has a 93.7 rating against the blitz, which is 23rd, with five touchdowns, three interceptions and 10 sacks.
Herbert’s numbers are also solid when being pressured. His 60.6% completion rate is second and his 89.1 rating is third.
Offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said the way Herbert has handled opposing pass rushes has exceeded expectations.
“When people are coming after him, he stands in there and delivers strikes. He’s been pretty productive doing it,” he said. “You think about all these young guys coming in and all these different looks they’re going to get on defense. He’s calm back there, he sees it well, and he makes the throws.”
Herbert will be tested by a Miami defense that brings the blitz on 34.8% of its snaps. That is the ninth-highest rate in the league but is not surprising considering second-year Dolphins coach Brian Flores came from New England, which is traditionally among the teams that bring the most pressure.
If earlier results are any indication, Herbert could do well. He was 7 of 14 for 84 yards with two touchdowns and an interception two weeks ago at Denver, which is fourth in blitz percentage.
“They play the right amount of aggressiveness,” Herbert said of Miami. “They’re really well-coached and they play great coverage behind all their pressures. It’s a tough task, but I’ve got to watch as much film as you can to be prepared.”
Even though Herbert and Tagovailoa know each other from the NFL combine, Herbert’s bigger concern this week is trying to turn Los Angeles’ season around. The Chargers are 2-6 for the first time in five years and have lost their last two games on the final play.
“Losses are always tough and frustrating, but there’s nothing we can do about it. So it’s all about moving forward and all our eyes are on Miami this weekend,” he said.
NOTES: DE Joey Bosa and RB Troymaine Pope returned to practice after missing last week because of concussions. Bosa was limited to individual drills while Pope was a full participant. … RB Justin Jackson will not practice most of the week after suffering a knee injury in last Sunday’s loss to Las Vegas. Coach Anthony Lynn did not rule him out though for Sunday’s game.
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