In quiet way, Justin Herbert has made loud statement as Chargers leader

Jeff Miller
·4 min read
Inglewood, CA, Sunday, September 20, 2020 - Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrates with teammates after scoring his first career touchdown on a first quarter scramble against the Kansas City Chiefs at SoFi Stadium. (Robert Gauthier/ Los Angeles Times)
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert has been given a lot of praise by teammates. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Coming out of Oregon, Justin Herbert was reported to have a big arm but a small aura.

He was said to be quiet — perhaps too quiet — which led to questions about his leadership potential, with being a leader part of an NFL quarterback’s job description.

The situation was hardly a foreign one to Anthony Lynn.

“I think a lot of introverts get labeled with that word ‘shy, lack of leadership,’ ” the Chargers coach said. “My son is an introvert. So I raised one. I know what the tags are. But you just look at how people respond to them. That’s all you need to know.”

Lynn's son D’Anton Lynn is the secondary coach for the Houston Texans. He is in his sixth season in the NFL, his time including one year with the Chargers.

Lynn said Herbert, since taking over the starting job in Week 2, has begun to be more vocal. He also dismissed the notion that Herbert lacks leadership skills.

“He’s more outgoing than people give him credit for,” Lynn said. “But that’s OK. He’s going to lead in his own way. I think he’s comfortable with who he is as a quarterback and person. Our team responds to him, and that’s really the only thing that matters.”

After four starts, Herbert has emerged as one of the NFL’s top rookies, averaging nearly 300 yards passing and repeatedly producing highlight throws, especially against pressure and on the move.

Around the Chargers, very little about Herbert has been questioned, beyond no wins in four starts with the No. 6 overall pick. He has been praised for everything from his big-play ability to his poise.

“When you think the play is over it’s actually not over,” wide receiver Mike Williams said. “He’s extended some plays, made some throws on the run that a lot of people can’t make. That’s what I like.”

Herbert also said he doesn’t agree with the suggestion that he’s too quiet.

“I think on the surface it might appear that way,” he said. “But when I really get to know people and the team, I think a lot of the guys on the team would tell you differently.”

Herbert will make his fifth career start Sunday, against Jacksonville at SoFi Stadium. After four difficult one-score losses, the Chargers are favored by more than a touchdown against the Jaguars, who have dropped five in a row.

As a rookie still looking for his first victory, Herbert continues to find his way, both on the field and in the locker room.

“He’s not a leader of the team yet, but I think he is more vocal,” Lynn said. “He’s the quarterback. He has to be. In time, that leadership and all that, that will come.”

Allen should play

The Chargers expect to have No. 1 wide receiver Keenan Allen available Sunday. He sat out most of the team’s Week 5 loss at New Orleans because of lower-back spasms.

“As long as he can go out there and be Keenan, that’s all I care about,” Lynn said. “I just don’t want him to hurt himself any more than what he did.”

Herbert has targeted Allen 40 times — leading to 28 receptions — in the three full games they have played together.

Lynn indicated that defensive end Melvin Ingram has a chance to play after missing the past three games because of a knee injury. Ingram is on the injured reserve list and would need to be activated Saturday.

Defensive tackle Linval Joseph (elbow) and left tackle Sam Tevi (thumb/ankle) came off the injury list Friday, clearing the way to play against Jacksonville.

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga (back), running back Justin Jackson (knee), wide receiver K.J. Hill (hip) and quarterback Tyrod Taylor (ribs) are all questionable.

Starting right guard Trai Turner (groin) will miss his fifth game. Acquired in a offseason trade with Carolina, Turner’s lone appearance remains his Week 2 start against Kansas City.

Reed role

After having a limited role the first three weeks, rookie receiver Joe Reed has been inactive for the last two games. Lynn explained that despite Reed’s kick-return ability, the game-day roster spots are precious.

“It’s hard to bring up a luxury when you’ve had the injuries that we’ve had,” Lynn said. “I’m doing everything I can to get him back up because we need his production.”

Reed was a fifth-round pick out of Virginia in April, the Chargers celebrating his potential as both a receiver and a kick returner.

His 46-yard kickoff return in the opener led to a key fourth-quarter touchdown in a 16-13 victory at Cincinnati.

But Reed has been limited to 11 snaps on offense and, other than six kickoff returns, has handled the ball only once, gaining eight yards on a carry against Kansas City.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.