On the final Monday practice before the regular season, Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera has his team getting ready for their Week 1 matchup against the visiting L.A. Chargers. That planning includes preparing for the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, QB Justin Herbert.
Facing off against Herbert will be the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, edge rusher Chase Young—who Washington drafted four spots ahead of Herbert in 2020. WFT is obviously quite happy looking back at their selection, and have upgraded at QB themselves by signing Ryan Fitzpatrick this offseason. But that doesn't mean Rivera didn't do his homework on Herbert last year before the draft.
“Well, when we looked at him, we really liked who he is as a football player. He has got a nice, strong arm and he's built for the position. He's very athletic for a big guy,” Rivera said after Washington’s practice on Monday. “I mean, you put the tape on from last year, you got an opportunity to watch him make all the throws, literally make all the throws.
"It's just one of those things that you draft who you think you need and that's what we did. But, I really think that this is a good football player. He's a young guy who's going to continue to develop and grow and he'll be a formidable player for a long time in this league.”
Formidable is an excellent word to describe both Herbert and Young's rookie campaigns. Herbert threw for the league’s sixth-most passing yards (4,336) along with an outstanding 31-10 TD-INT ratio. Though he didn't lead the Chargers to the playoffs, the Oregon alum looked sharp in the pocket and made a slew of pinpoint passes en route to his ROY honors.
Young, by comparison, was a defensive menace and immediately became a stalwart of Washington’s front, alongside Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. Young finished the year with the fourth-most forced fumbles (4) in the league to go along with 7.5 sacks and 44 tackles. Pro Football Focus even ranked Young as the NFL’s best defensive rookie last year, and by quite a large margin.
Again, Washington is undoubtedly smitten with their decision to select Young second overall in 2020. But that doesn’t mean that Herbert didn’t stand out to Ron Rivera and company ahead of the draft.
“I think probably the biggest thing is when you get an opportunity and you find that quarterback, a kid like him, you know, young man like him, that’s what you want to get and hold on to,” Rivera said of Herbert. “I mean, a part of it also is always hindsight because now you get a chance to see that he's had success and he’s capable of that six or seven [overall pick]. He was offensive rookie of the year last year for a reason, obviously.”