The lead-up to the LA Chargers‘ 2020 season was plagued by questions about who the starter would be after the departure of Philip Rivers. Clearly, that’s not the case this year. 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert will start the season opener for the first time. Like every rookie quarterback heading into his second sophomore season, Herbert faces questions about a potential sophomore slump.
Easton Stick seemed like a shoo-in to be the backup quarterback once Tyrod Taylor signed with the Texans. But then the Chargers signed veteran backup Chase Daniel to a one-year, $1.5 million deal. With the exception of the past two seasons, Tom Telesco has usually carried two quarterbacks.
1. Does Justin Herbert experience a real sophomore slump for the LA Chargers?
It’s important to first define what “sophomore slump” actually means. Justin Herbert simply throwing fewer touchdowns or more interceptions wouldn’t really indicate a true decline. However, if he were to experience dips across the board in several passing categories, it might be a more accurate term.
Baker Mayfield’s 2019 season is a pretty good reference point for what a sophomore slump looks like. From year to year, Mayfield threw for five fewer touchdowns and seven more interceptions on top of a 4.4% drop in completion percentage. His passer rating plummeted almost 15 points from 93.7 to 78.8.
Personally, I sell the idea that Herbert will actually slump. The factor that some are concerned about is Joe Lombardi, which is fair considering Stafford’s struggles during his Detroit tenure. But Herbert found ways to succeed consistently in 2020 in spite of the Steichen/Lynn ground and pound offense.
The one thing to truly be concerned about is the rest of the NFL having a year of film on Herbert, which could reveal some of his tendencies and weaknesses to attack. At the same time, Herbert will experience his first full NFL offseason to continue his development. A brand new coaching staff also makes some of 2020’s film harder to evaluate.