LA Chargers: Why Justin Herbert might not start in 2020


Justin Herbert might be waiting longer than some expect to start on the LA Chargers.

When LA Chargers general manager Tom Telesco drafted Justin Herbert with the sixth pick, the expectation was that there would be some waiting time before Herbert ascended to the starting role. Telesco’s first quote to Herbert after drafting him was, “We’re gonna let you grow with us, develop, and be patient.”

It’s pretty clear that the plan was always for Tyrod Taylor to start the season with Herbert earning the starting role whenever he was ready or whenever the situation called for it. The latter happened in Cleveland when Baker Mayfield quickly ascended to the first quarterback spot following Taylor’s concussion vs. the Jets in Week 3.

Barring an injury, Herbert’s odds are nowhere near as good at making the field in 2020 as Mayfield’s were in 2018. Other than the differences in how ready each was coming out of school for the pro game, Herbert’s offseason has been ravaged.

Justin Herbert’s hurdles to start for the LA Chargers in 2020 are unprecedented.

There was no rookie minicamp. There were no OTAs. Sure, Herbert has still been attending team zoom meetings like all the other Chargers, but it’s not good that he hasn’t been with the team and coaches on the field yet.

There may not be a preseason at all, and if there is, it’ll likely be one or two games. That’s an unfortunate blow to Herbert’s chances of starting.

The coronavirus pandemic is one of the reasons Herbert may very well not start in the 2020 season. That’s a factor that’s simply out of his control. Another factor out of his control is the relationship between Taylor and Anthony Lynn.

With the shortened offseason and complex circumstances, Lynn may very well stick to what he knows more often. Lynn’s previous time in Buffalo with Taylor is a much different circumstance than almost any other quarterback who could’ve taken over after the Philip Rivers‘ departure. In a season defined by chaos, the coaching staff might want variables they know over ones they don’t.

There’s also a generally simple schedule for Taylor to cut his teeth on in the early going. Five of the first eight Chargers’ opponents are the Jets, Dolphins, Bengals, Panthers, and Jaguars. That balances out really well for Taylor if he can manage to win one of the three hard games vs. the Chiefs, Buccaneers, or Saints. If the Chargers find themselves in the hunt for the Wild Card or AFC West with Taylor, Herbert isn’t getting on the field.

Herbert’s first year was always viewed as developmental when the Chargers drafted him, but now it may only be development instead of regular season play. Herbert’s rookie offseason has been demolished by the pandemic. Without OTAs, rookie minicamp, and possibly preseason, he’s in a much dicier position than he would’ve been in a normal offseason.

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Taylor’s relationship with Lynn and the relatively simple schedule for the Chargers to start also hurts Herbert’s chances. Ultimately, a relatively stacked roster, a ravaged offseason, and familiarity with Taylor have brought down the chances of seeing the Oregon product on the field in 2020.