The 2023 season did not get off to the start that Chargers fans were hoping for as the team lost an offensive slugfest to the Miami Dolphins. Defense was nowhere to be seen, particularly for the Chargers, who allowed 36 points and over 600 yards of offense.
While the Chargers scored 34 points of their own, it was not a particularly big game for quarterback Justin Herbert. Herbert completed 23 of 33 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown. He rushed for a touchdown as well. Unfortunately, he could not drive the team down the field in the fourth quarter to cement the win.
This was Kellen Moore's first game as offensive coordinator and it was obvious early on that the Chargers were going to rely on the run. Improving the run game was a big focus for the team in the offseason and Moore continued to take what Vic Fangio's defense gave him. The run was working so the team did not shy away from it.
That being said, when Herbert did pass the ball he did not take those big shots down the field that fans have been asking for. In fact, Herbert's average depth of target (aDOT) checked in at 4.1, which was lower than last season when Joe Lombardi was the offensive coordinator.
Joe Lombardi truthers emerge after Justin Herbert's low aDOT in Chargers Week 1 loss
This is a very small sample size and the matchup certainly dictated what Herbert was able to do. If there is one thing that Fangio was going to take away from the Chargers it was the deep ball. That forced the Bolts to run the ball more and utilize the underneath zones.
It is impossible to come to conclusions this early in the season but it is going to be interesting to see how this shakes out as the year goes along. If Herbert continues to hit his check-downs and pass underneath the coverage then it will become clear that his low aDOT wasn't solely a Lombardi thing, it may have to do with him as well.
And that is not necessarily a bad thing. One of the biggest misconceptions is a high aDOT means someone is automatically a great quarterback. Joe Burrow checked in with a 6.8 aDOT last season, Patrick Mahomes had a 7.2.
That was never the problem with Lombardi. The fanbase clung to the perceived lack of deep passes as the sole reason why Lombardi was not a good offensive coordinator. It was certainly part of the problem, but the real issue was a lack of creativity, lack of pre-snap motion, and an inability to adjust to what the defense was giving him.
Moore showcased all of those things in Sunday's loss. Sure, it meant that Herbert didn't have a big day and his aDOT was low but the offense still scored 34 points. His job is to score as many points as possible, not to give Herbert the best stats in the league.
If the offense is struggling and Herbert's aDOT remains low then there is a conversation to be had about the team not utilizing the deep part of the field. But if the team is scoring 30+ points every game then it doesn't really matter if Herbert's aDOT is 7.0 or 9.0.