Welcome to Part 1 of our 2022 positional recaps, a series that will run through the next few weeks and highlight all 10 Chargers position groups. We'll focus on key stats, big moments and look ahead to the 2023 season.
This was the most impressive season of Justin Herbert's young career.
Don't be fooled by a stat line that showed the fewest passing touchdowns of his career and lowest passer rating and passing yards per game in three seasons.
So why was it arguably the 24-year-old's best season to date?
For starters, not only did the Chargers quarterback will his team to the playoffs down the stretch, but Herbert kept the team afloat in the middle part of the season while dealing with a rib injury and with skill players bouncing in and out of the lineup.
"I think we've gotten a lot better as a team," Herbert said after the season. "I thought there were a lot of things, offensively, that we did good.
"Still plenty of room for improvement, things we can clean up this offseason and definitely address," Herbert added. "But overall, we battled through some injuries, battled through some adversity. I'm really proud of this team."
The Bolts finished 10-7 and secured a Wild Card berth before falling in the opening round of the playoffs.
But it's unimaginable to think where the Chargers would have been without Herbert, who gave the Bolts a chance to win each and every week despite the difficult circumstances he faced throughout the 2022 season.
"Adversity is a great teacher for anybody, especially at that position," Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco said. "His mentality, when talking about mental toughness and how he handled situations — if you're a player in the huddle and you're looking at Justin Herbert, there's no fear in his eyes, there's no flinch. That's what great leaders have.
"Sometimes, it does take some development to get there, to kind of go through those different battles and those different wars and see the success that you can have," Telesco added. "That's the type of guy you want in your huddle when you're moving the ball down the field."
Behind Herbert, veteran Chase Daniel played in four games. Easton Stick was also on the Bolts 53-man roster for the entirety of the season but was inactive for all but one game in 2022.
Take a look back at the best photos of Justin Herbert's 2022 campaign
According to Pro Football Focus, Herbert had the league's lowest turnover-worthy play rate at just 1.7 percent among quarterbacks with at least 250 dropbacks. Herbert had the second-most dropbacks in the league at 840 but had just 14 turnover-worthy plays. No other player with that many dropbacks was under 2.0 percent.
Herbert once again produced a number of eye-popping throws in 2022.
There was the dart to Mike Williams on the final drive against the Titans that had just a 22.6-percent to be completed, according to NFL NextGen Stats. And there was the throw that traveled 54.3 air yards to Jalen Guyton in Week 3.
But the play from Herbert that stood out the most was in Week 2 on the road against the Chiefs.
The quarterback had taken a hit a few plays earlier and had to leave the game for a play as he dealt with fractured rib cartilage. But on fourth-and-1 from the Chiefs 43-yard line, Herbert zipped a rope down the seam to DeAndre Carter that picked up 35 yards.
Only a handful of people on the entire planet can make that throw when healthy. Herbert did it when he could barely move or walk.
Completed 477 of 699 passes (68.2 percent) for 4,739 yards with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions with a passer rating of 93.2. Started all 17 games and played 1,162 offensive snaps (97.5 percent).
Completed eight of 12 passes (66.7 percent) for 52 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions with a passer rating of 103.5. Appeared in four games and played 30 offensive snaps (2.5 percent).
Did not play in the regular season.
2 Questions for 2023
1. How does Herbert fit with the new offensive coordinator?
Herbert will be under his third offensive coordinator in 2023 after the Chargers parted ways with Joe Lombardi last week.
Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said last week that he envisions a more potent run game to help take pressure off Herbert, but noted that the Bolts will still put the ball in the hands of their best player more often than not.
Staley also made it clear that Herbert will have some input on who the Chargers next offensive play caller will be.
"Shaping your offense, it's going to go through him," Staley said. "When I talk about him being the system, I mean it. He has, now, three years of NFL experience to bank on. There are a lot of plays.
"As the head coach here for two years, we're going to try and keep a lot of that consistent for him where we can, and that's what I mean," Staley added. "As a head coach with an offensive background — that's the position that I played — what we're going to do, throughout the course of his career, is do that for him so that we can maximize him as a player."
If the Chargers can hit on that hire and take Herbert's game to another level, the possibilities seem endless for the young star quarterback.
2. What do the Chargers do behind Herbert?
Daniel spent the past two seasons as Herbert's backup, playing in five total games while attempting just a dozen passes.
Stick, meanwhile, has spent the past four seasons with the Bolts. He appeared in just one game and completed his lone pass for four yards.
Yet as the 2023 offseason begins, both players are set to be free agents, meaning the Chargers will have to decide what to do behind Herbert.
Both players could return, while there's also a scenario where one or neither of them is back. If the latter scenario plays out, perhaps the Chargers spend one of their seven draft picks on a quarterback or bring in a veteran who could serve in the same role Daniel has held the past two seasons.
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