When the Los Angeles Chargers drafted Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert with the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft they knew he was the future of the franchise.
It was never a matter of if, it was a matter of when he got the nod.
The team wanted to ease him into the role, having him sit behind veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor while he learned the ropes.
However, the process has been expedited.
Taylor suffered a punctured lung prior to last week's game and Herbert was called upon on short notice for his first NFL start.
The 22-year-old Herbert didn't flinch against the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs going 22 for 31 for 311 yards and a touchdown. He also added 18 yards and a score on the ground.
Taylor is still recovering from his chest injury, and because of this, the Chargers made the move on Herbert officially announcing him as the starter for the team's Week 3 matchup against the Carolina Panthers.
"Justin didn't know he was gonna play until right before kickoff," said head coach Anthony Lynn. "He didn't get a lot... he didn't get half the reps last week in practice. So that playbook really shrunk and we put him in some tough situations where he hadn't practiced certain things."
Still, Herbert was able to impress in his first career start, showing Chargers fans what the state of Oregon has known since his days at Eugene's Sheldon High School. Said Lynn, "He didn't panic. He made some really nice throws in that game. He moved around, showed that he can extend plays. He did some good things in that game. But he was not fully prepared."
Coach wasn't the only person who left the field Sunday excited about the future of the young QB. So was star tight end Hunter Henry. "Very impressive," said Henry when asked about Herbert's debut. "To find out right before the game... he prepared and he was ready to go. Obviously, that showed in a lot of the things he executed. He's a tremendous talent, too. Obviously, his arm talent is crazy. He was ready to step up when his name was called."
In his four seasons at Oregon, Herbert passed for 10,541 yards and 95 touchdowns. He has a long way to go to pass those numbers in the NFL, but last Sunday showed it's only inevitable.
Lynn has said multiple times that if Taylor is 100% healthy, he is the team's starter. That is understandable. However, if Herbert has another solid game this weekend, and perhaps beyond should Taylor remain injured, it's going to be awfully hard for Lynn to send him back to the bench.
Even if Lynn stays true to his word, he knows he has a gem in his young QB. "He was here yesterday at 6:30 in the morning with me watching tape and getting ready. He's a hard worker. He doesn't take this lightly."
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