Justin Herbert will embark on a journey to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump in September after a stellar rookie year that got him the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. The Los Angeles Chargers got him some help in the form of first-round tackle Rashawn Slater and his receiving corps will return mostly intact. The strongest factor going against the Chargers this year is the fact they play in the AFC West and have to face Patrick Mahomes twice a year.
Otherwise there's reason to be rather excited about what the Bolts are building, and Max Kellerman is all the way aboard the hype train. He picked L.A. as a sleeper team in the AFC for the 2021 season and then went on to explain why Herbert has the potential to be spoken about in the same breath as Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers.
Those are some hefty expectations. As Kellerman noted, Herbert was immaculate in his first professional year. He threw for 4,336 yards with 31 touchdowns and 10 picks. It is certainly a contender for one of the greatest seasons by a rookie signal-caller ever. Guys rarely step into the starting job and look so comfortable. There don't appear to be any significant flaws in his game. Herbert can throw to any level of the field, is a good enough decision maker, and the Chargers probably would have won more games had he not been hamstrung by the decision-making of the since-fired Anthony Lynn.
But Herbert also hasn't experienced what happens when teams gameplan for months to make his life as difficult as possible. That's what separates the Mahomes and Rodgers of the world. We haven't seen many quarterbacks succeed as quickly as Herbert did, but there are a lot of one-year wonders scattered across the league. Playing back there is different when everything the opposing defense does is specifically designed to take away what he does best.
That isn't to say he can't do it. Herbert very well could rise to that second echelon Kellerman describes, where he isn't the best of the best but is better than the rest. One good year does not a superstar make, though, and there's a reason there are only a handful of names on lists like the one Kellerman made. Herbert's ability to adjust on the fly will be put to the test this year. Time will only tell how he handles it.