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Justin Herbert Is Trending In the Wrong Direction

Tennessee Titans v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Thanks to the nflFastR project and NFL NextGen Stats for the timely sources of data.

For those of you new to this, I will publish key QB stats each week judging how well the Colts passing game performed. Yes, O-Line, receivers, and play-calling impact these numbers but they are primarily QB measures. I will probably modify the charts throughout the season. Commentary will be brief but feel free to let me know in the comments that stats aren’t everything. (click charts for larger view)

NOTE: All references to rankings are of the top 32 QBs by dropbacks through the current week.

In 2021, ranked Justin Herbert the 4th best QB in the league. Football Outsiders gave him the 5th best DYAR and ESPN ranked him 3rd by QBR. Personally, I don’t care much for any of those stats/rankings, but he did finish with the 5th highest EPA/d and the 7th highest Passing Success Rate, so I am inclined to agree in this case.

However, 2022 is a whole other story. Let’s break it down.

Against the 7th most pressure (pr%), he has held the ball a long time (11th ttt), but he hasn’t taken many sacks (25th sck%). He hasn’t scrambled or thrown the ball away much either (20th scr%, 24th ta%), giving him one of the lowest abandoned play rates in the league (26th aa%). Basically, under pressure, he is making passes instead of giving up on the play.

However, that has led to a lot of short throws and completions (31st adot, 31st ay/c), which means he checks down a lot. These short throws drive the 5th highest completion rate, but after adjusting for distance, his accuracy has been just a bit above average (13th cpoe).

On short throws, receivers tend to get high YAC and the Charger receivers have averaged 13th in that category, but after adjusting for passing depth, they are far below average in YAC over expectation (22nd yacoe).

The short passes with limited YAC combine to a below average 6.7 YPA (25th). However, due to Herbert’s ability to not take sacks and get something instead of throwing the ball away, that has lifted his overall net yardage efficiency to 19th (ny/d).

He hasn’t turned the ball over (26th to%), but he also hasn’t throw many first downs or touchdowns (24th 1st%, 25th td%). That drops his efficiency when converting it from yards to actual play value and so he ranks only 22nd in EPA per dropback.

That is even less impressive when you consider he has faced a lineup of some of the easiest passing defenses of any QB (29th opd).

He’s basically providing the same value as Aaron Rodgers, which in previous years would have been a compliment.


Over the last 18 games, he has been trending worse in the biggest measures and predictors of performance.


He passing and completion depth charts show that he has consistently thrown short passes, which is sustainable if completion rate is high (it has been) and receivers can get very high YAC (they have not).


Running back Austin Ekeler has been the focus of the Charger passing game, which while impressive in fantasy football numbers, has not delivered above average passing value.


While his average completion rate has been high, that has been primarily thanks to short throws. His accuracy, on the other hand, shows a trend toward just a bit above average.


Relative to earlier games, he has been getting rid of the ball quicker. However, based on his short passes, he holds the ball a long time. Basically, he is not finding receivers like he used to.


He’s better on the deep routes to the center-left side of the field (Williams, Palmer).