After bursting on the scene as a rookie, throwing for over 4,000 yards and 31 touchdowns en route to 2020’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert followed it up with a Pro Bowl season. Heading into his third year in the NFL, Herbert is among favorites for a different award: MVP.
What are some realistic expectations for Herbert this season?
To start off, we should look at the acquisitions and re-signings the Chargers made in the offseason to build around their signal caller.
Incredible defensive additions—cornerback J.C. Jackson and edge rusher Khalil Mack—aside, Los Angeles’ move to re-sign receiver Mike Williams was one of the biggest of the offseason. Williams led the team in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns last year, despite having 30 fewer catches than Keenan Allen.
Because of his height and relative speed, Williams is one of the NFL’s best deep-ball receivers. Keeping him around for a young quarterback who has a rocket arm and likes to stretch the field was a no-brainer decision for the Chargers. They also keep together their leading receiver duo of Williams and Allen, who each posted 1,000-yard seasons in 2021.
Los Angeles also addressed one of the weakest parts of their offense—the offensive line—in this year’s draft, adding highly touted guard Zion Johnson in the first round and fellow guard Jamaree Salyer in the sixth.
Johnson brings a very powerful presence with a recently improved strength in pass sets and slots in as the immediate starter at right guard. Salyer, though drafted as a guard, has the versatility to play tackle, as well. That could be big if right tackle Storm Norton gets injured or continues to struggle in 2022.
Another factor to consider is the strength of the Chargers’ division, as well as their schedule.
Everyone knows how strong the AFC West is going into 2022, but the biggest focus has been on the high-powered offenses with all of the quarterback talent in the division. The passing defenses around the division are not among the top in the NFL.
The Chiefs struggled heavily at the start of 2021 and now have lost defensive backs Charvarius Ward, Mike Hughes and Tyrann Mathieu. The Raiders added Chandler Jones opposite Maxx Crosby in their pass rush, but their secondary could still use work. The Broncos boast one of the best secondaries in the AFC West with safety Justin Simmons and second-year cornerback Patrick Surtain II as the standouts, but Denver still has some big questions surrounding their pass rush.
Past their divisional matchups, the Chargers play the NFC West, the AFC South and the Falcons, Dolphins and Browns. That means Los Angeles—and particularly Herbert—can beat up on some below-average defenses, particularly the Falcons, Seahawks, Texans, Jaguars and Cardinals – just to name a few.
With a better offensive line, returning weapons and a relatively soft schedule, Herbert has the chance to ball out in 2022. He could absolutely insert himself in the MVP conversation in year three, especially if he takes another step forward after an impressive sophomore season in 2021.
Our own Jaime Eisner put together his 2022 stats projections for each quarterback for fantasy football purposes, and that provided a great template to go off for Herbert’s expectations.
Herbert’s projections for 2022 include about 4,845 passing yards, 36 passing touchdowns and 14 interceptions. That’s fewer yards, touchdowns and interceptions than he had in 2021.
Assuming a step forward comparable to his jump from his rookie to sophomore year and taking his projections into account, Herbert could definitely surpass the 40-touchdown mark in 2022. Another 5,000-yard season shouldn’t be out of the question, either.
Instead, the big questions are how much he can cut back on turnovers and whether he can substitute them for even more touchdowns. The Packers’ Aaron Rodgers won back-to-back MVPs leading the league in touchdown percentage and interception percentage. If Herbert can improve his decision-making while still making the impressive, deep-bomb throws that he and his arm are known for in 2022, an MVP should be well within reach for the Chargers’ gunslinger.