The difference was clear last night. Of the two quarterbacks selected top-10 in the 2020 NFL Draft on the field on Sunday night, only one has a chance to become one of the best in the league.
That player is Justin Herbert. He had his full arsenal of weapons against the Miami Dolphins and did whatever was necessary to get them the football. Herbert used all of his athletic gifts, his size and his mobility, to sidestep pass rushers, roll out, and climb the pocket to have a stellar performance on Sunday Night Football.
Herbert’s efforts to avoid oncoming Dolphins defenders resulted in the Los Angeles Chargers defeating the Dolphins 23-17, and him passing for 367 yards while averaging 7.2 yards per attempt with no turnovers. He’s had his struggles at times this season, but they have mostly been injury related. That includes a painful rib cartilage injury he played through.
For the Dolphins, Tua Tagovailoa had his worst game of this season as a starter. Even though he didn’t turn the ball over, he averaged less than 7.5 yards per attempt for the first time this season. Tagovailoa completed 35.7 percent of his passes and only averaged 5.2 yards per attempt.
That performance, in this new and improved Dolphins offense, will likely not be indicative of Tagovailoa’s future play. He is getting shoveled quickly back into the fire with a road game against the Buffalo Bills on Saturday, but the Bills have injury problems all over the field. Maybe going up against another offense that has struggled in recent weeks is just what the Dolphins need to get back on track.
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And maybe the Chargers don’t make the playoffs this season, but fans of both fan bases should be clear on who is the better quarterback. Tagovailoa is the type of quarterback who can put his pass catchers in the best position to use their talents to turn good plays into game-breaking ones.
Herbert, however, can do that and much more. He can keep a mangled team competitive enough to stay in the playoff race. Then, when the skill-position talent returns from injury, he can do more than get them the ball in a place that best maximizes their talents. Herbert can deliver the ball in place that creates an opportunity that they can’t create for themselves.
Even though the Chargers’ final point total was not eye-popping last night, Herbert’s performance absolutely was. The Dolphins went after the Chargers’ offensive line that was missing its best player — Rashawn Slater. While they were able to create pressure, Herbert’s playmaking, in the midst of all of that chaos, allowed the Chargers to never trail against one of the AFC’s best teams.
Injuries may have derailed the 2022 season for the Chargers, but their win on Sunday showed that as long as Herbert is behind center, this team will always have a good chance at a victory.