Chargers Have Questions at Quarterback
April 2, 2020
The world champion Kansas City Chiefs have won four straight AFC West titles. They also have the Super Bowl MVP and 2018 NFL MVP, Patrick Mahomes, as their starting quarterback. He is only 24 years old. This is what the other three AFC West teams are up against. The Los Angeles Chargers, one of those three teams, have an important decision to make in the three weeks at the quarterback position.
Of the four AFC West teams, the Chargers have the most questions at quarterback. Denver returns Drew Lock at quarterback, who went 4-1 in five starts and is only 23 years of age. Derek Carr is a three-time pro bowl quarterback for the Raiders, who is very accurate but has only led his team to the playoffs once. Tyrod Taylor, the Chargers presumptive starter, led the Buffalo Bills in 2017 to the playoffs, but is considered more of a backup quarterback.
The Chiefs have Mahomes and that is the one difference on the field that the other AFC West teams cannot match up with. Mahomes can make throws that most quarterbacks can only dream about making. He doesn't require a good running game to be successful and he can overcome a defense that is not playing well. It also helps that he has some very talented receivers.
The Chargers have one of the better defensive teams in the NFL. They also have their own talented group of receivers. The offensive line has been upgraded, which will help the running game. But to compete with the Chiefs this season and in the future, the Chargers need to find a replacement for quarterback Philip Rivers.
Taylor will be 31 at the start of the season. He is a good athlete, having run a 4.5 forty in the past and he can make plays with his feet when there is no one open. In that respect, he is an improvement over Rivers. But Taylor has never been a great pocket passer and, in the past, has required a good defense and favorable field position to be effective. That is what he had in Buffalo in 2017.
Taylor does not take risks on the field, which will probably make head coach Anthony Lynn happy after last season. The 2019 Chargers were tied for last with the New York Giants in turnover ratio, at a -17. The 2020 Chargers may be an excellent fit for his skills, with a defense that is very good and that should provide good field position. But because of last season's collapse, the Chargers have the No.6 pick in the first round, which gives them an opportunity to find their quarterback of the future. That is not Taylor.
With the No.6 pick of the first round, the Chargers should select quarterback Justin Herbert out of Oregon. Herbert led the Oregon Ducks to a Pac-12 conference championship in 2019. But he was just getting started. Herbert then led the Ducks to a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin, rushing for three touchdowns, including a nifty thirty-yard touchdown run that turned out to be the game winning score.
Herbert was named the Rose Bowl Offensive MVP. He followed that performance up by being named the MVP in the Senior Bowl, the premier collegiate post-season all-star game. Scouts and coaches were impressed with Herbert throughout the week, especially with his leadership skills and how quickly he picked things up. Herbert then went to the combine, where he ran a 4.68 forty, 3rd fastest among quarterbacks, had a 35.5" vertical jump and threw a ball 62 yards down the field without stepping into the throw.
Herbert measured in at 6'6" and 236 pounds, with 10" hands, which seems to be very important to some coaches. Herbert had a grade point average of 4.01 and got his degree in biology. He won the Campbell Trophy, a trophy that goes to the college football player with the best combined academic and athletic excellence performance. The award is considered the "Academic Heisman." Among the previous winners were Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow.
Herbert has the size, talent and brains to play the position of quarterback in the NFL at a high level. At the Rose Bowl game and at the Senior Bowl, he showed his leadership skills. But the concern about Herbert is that he often seems to be holding back. Herbert at times needs to be willing to just let it fly, just let it go. He has the arm strength to make any throw on the field and he needs to be more aggressive, which an NFL coach will teach him to be.
Herbert may never be the quarterback that the superstar Mahomes is, but if he can play at a high level in the NFL, he may be all the Chargers need to challenge the Chiefs in the AFC West for the next decade. With Mahomes in the AFC West, every team needs to raise their level of play at the quarterback position. Otherwise, it will be a long decade of frustration for each team. The Chargers have an opportunity to do that in this year's NFL draft.