Now Chargers’ starter, Herbert faces Saints next
Last week it was Tom Brady.
This week it’s Drew Brees.
Los Angeles Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert is getting the opportunity to gauge himself against the active quarterbacks with the two most prolific careers in the NFL.
Herbert, the sixth pick in this year’s NFL draft, played well last week in his third start, but Brady threw five touchdown passes and rallied the host Tampa Bay Buccaneers from a 17-point deficit to a 38-31 victory.
This week Hebert and the Chargers (1-3) visit Brees and the New Orleans Saints (2-2) on Monday night, now the second of two games that day after the Denver Broncos-New England Patriots was moved from Sunday afternoon to early Monday evening.
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn announced Thursday that Herbert, who has started three games as a fill-in for the injured Tyrod Taylor (ribs/lung), will be the starter going forward.
“I wanted this to play out,” Lynn said. “I’ve seen enough. He impressed from the very beginning. This young man is going to continue to get better, and I know we can win with him. I believe that.
“I did not take that decision lightly. It’s not a decision where he’s going to be looking over his shoulder. … He’s our quarterback.”
Herbert completed 20 of 25 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns against the Buccaneers. He was intercepted once.
“I’ve been impressed,” Saints coach Sean Payton said of Herbert. “He has very good arm talent. He can throw off body from some funny body positions. He made some big plays last week.”
Brees, 41, was thought to be the Chargers’ quarterback of the future when he became their starter in his second season 18 years ago. He started for four seasons before joining New Orleans as a free agent in March 2006.
“Hard to believe that that was 15 years ago,” Brees said, “but I certainly value the memories there.”
Brees and the Saints’ passing game struggled in consecutive losses to Las Vegas and Green Bay after All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas sustained an ankle injury in a season-opening victory against the Buccaneers.
But Brees and the passing game were much more effective in a 35-29 victory at Detroit on Sunday. The Saints scored three second-quarter touchdowns on their way to a 28-14 halftime lead after the Lions jumped to an early 14-0 lead.
“I was pleased last week with what we were able to do there in the second quarter,” Payton said. “We had good balance and the tempo was good, but there’s still a lot of details that I think need to be cleaned up a lot.”
Brees completed 19 of 25 passes for 246 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
With Thomas still sidelined, Tre’Quan Smith caught both touchdown passes and was one of nine Saints with at least one reception.
“Obviously, (Thomas) is a is a big part of our offensive focal point,” Brees said, “and when you remove a guy like that, all those opportunities, all those touches need to be kind of filled by someone else. And I’d say it was a group effort. And I think those guys did a great job.”
Thomas was one of seven Saints starters who were limited in practice Thursday due to injuries. The others were tight end Jared Cook (groin), offensive linemen Ryan Ramczyk (concussion) and Andrus Peat (ankle), defensive end Marcus Davenport (toe), and defensive backs Marshon Lattimore (ankle) and Malcolm Jenkins (knee).
Starting cornerback Janoris Jenkins (shoulder) and All-Pro return specialist Deonte Harris (hamstring) both missed practice.
Los Angeles has injury issues of its own. Starting running back Austin Ekeler is expected to miss a month because a hamstring injury sustained against Tampa Bay.
Four other Chargers starters sat out practice Thursday — defensive end Joey Bosa (triceps/knee), wide receiver Mike Williams (hamstring) and offensive linemen Bryan Bulaga (back) and Trai Turner (groin).
–Field Level Media