Justin Herbert was the third most pressured quarterback in the league in 2020 and he had the best season in NFL history for a rookie quarterback in spite of his offensive line. The Chargers’ front office put a significant emphasis on improving the protection in front of Herbert in 2021, and it paid immediate dividends on the road against Washington on Sunday, as Justin Herbert was the least pressured quarterback of any starter in Week 1.
The Chargers added Rashawn Slater in the first round of the draft in 2021. He allowed zero pressures on 81 snaps against what many people consider a top three front 7 on the opposite site of the ball, with a majority of his snaps coming against Chase Young. 2020 All Pro Corey Linsley solidifies things up the middle. With two new anchors on the left side and middle of the line, the Chargers allowed only 2 sacks and finished 14-19 on 3rd down against a Washington defense that ranked 6th in the league in both sacks and 3rd down percentage in 2020.
When you consider Herbert’s potential and the transformation of a weakness on the offensive line into a significant strength in 2021, the Chargers’ offensive potential is one of the most exciting storylines to watch throughout the first segment of the 2021 season. Keenan Allen picked up where he left off in 2020 as Herbert’s top target, catching 9 balls on 13 targets for 100 yards in Week 1. Mike Williams showed steps to improved consistency as well, grabbing 8 balls for 82 yards and a TD on 12 targets.
In Week 2 they’ll face a Cowboys’ defense that was torched early and often by Tampa Bay on opening night. They just lost their best pass rusher in Demarcus Lawrence on Wednesday after he broke his foot in practice after pressuring Tom Brady just three times in the opener. With limited pressure, Brady finished with 337 yards and 4 passing TD’s on 7.6 yards per attempt, leading his offense to a 60% touchdown rate on red zone trips.
With a suspect secondary lining up in front of a front 7 that generated limited pressure against Tampa Bay, Herbert is in an excellent spot behind a completely re-tooled offensive line to turn heads at home against an already banged up Dallas pass rush that will be missing Demarcus Lawrence and has seen Randy Gregory moved to the Covid list mid-week.