Skip to main content

Chargers Official Site | Los Angeles Chargers -

'He'll Respond': Why the Bolts Can't Wait to See Justin Herbert Play on Sunday


Below are three takeaways from Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley, quarterback Justin Herbert, safety Derwin James, Jr., and defensive lineman Morgan Fox following their media availability on Wednesday:

Herbert ready to bounce back

Justin Herbert hasn't forgotten about the pair of throws he missed to Keenan Allen on Monday night.

Actually, the Chargers quarterback keeps a mental catalog of most of the throws that bother him.

"I'm worried about throws from four or five years ago, unfortunately," Herbert said with a smirk. "That's part of the position of quarterback. I felt horrible for Keenan to be able to run two routes like that. To miss him, it's tough.

"But I know if I get that throw again then I'm going to make that throw," Herbert added. "I hope he believes that, too."

Coming off an admittedly down game against Dallas in Week 6, Herbert said Wednesday that he's already excited for the chance to get another chance to compete Sunday in Kansas City.

"We could be out here for a long time if you want the specifics," Herbert said about what he learned from re-watching the Cowboys game. "There were a lot of opportunities for big plays down the field.

"Missed a couple passes, some plays I'd love to have back. But there's nothing we can do about that now," Herbert added. "The goal, the mission, for today … is to be better and learn from those mistakes. There's a lot to look forward to."

Herbert said Monday that his performance in Week 6 could be cleaner overall.

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said Wednesday that the reason such games with Herbert stand out is because he's usually at the top of his game week-in and week-out.

"I just expect for him to bounce back and play his game. He doesn't need to do anything more than that," Staley said. "There's going to be some tough games for players. I think it's noticeable for Justin because he doesn't have very many of them in four years. You can point to one because there just hasn't been very many.

"Like I said after the game, I thought he competed great in the game, gave us a chance to win in the game," Staley continued. "Justin just needs to keep being the player that he is and not doing anything more than that and just playing his type of ball and leading us, impacting us like he always does.

"We know he's going to bounce back. It's going to start on the practice field," Staley added. "He pours in all the right work and excited to see him back on the practice field. I know he'll respond in the right way."

Coming off a Monday night game, the Bolts held a walk-through and not a full practice on Wednesday.

If it were up to Herbert, he and Allen would be getting more work in on the practice field.

"If we were having a full-on practice today, we'd be out here making those throws. It's unfortunate but you have to learn from it and keep moving," Herbert said.

Entering Week 7, the Chargers offense currently ranks fifth in EPA per play (0.081) and are seventh on points per game (25.4).

But the last six quarters against the Raiders and Cowboys have been a bit up and down, something Herbert said starts with him.

"We just need to execute better. It starts with me being able to complete balls and be able to get first downs, keep the ball moving," Herbert said. "If we're able to do that, I think we're a much more efficient offense.

"We just have to go out there and execute," Herbert added. "The coaches are putting us in a position to win and make plays. It's on us."

Herbert and the Bolts offense now get a chance to get back on track on the road against perhaps their fiercest rival … and in one of the toughest environments in the league.

But don't expect Herbert to be fazed by the atmosphere at Arrowhead Stadium, a venue where he's 2-1 in three games. He's completed 81 of 117 passes (69.2 percent) for 917 yards with a. 10:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in Kansas City.

"It's always a fun environment," Herbert said. "The fans are great there and it's such a great opportunity to play football. It's one that you always dream of … going into a place like that."

Herbert is one of just two current quarterbacks — along with Buffalo's Josh Allen — to have multiple regular-season wins at Arrowhead Stadium.

And given how motivated Herbert sounded Wednesday, expect the Chargers quarterback to be plenty ready to go for this one in Week 7.

Fox making a splash

The 2022 season was one that saw defensive lineman Morgan Fox come onto the scene as a post-draft signing and make a big impact when his number was called in a big way late in the season.

And so far through five games in 2023, Fox is on pace for his best season yet.

Fox enters Week 7 with 5.0 sacks and five defensive stops, according to Pro Football Focus, all while showing the versatility he displayed last season lining up all along the defensive line.

He's has posted four consecutive games with a sack, the longest streak of his career and the second-longest active streak in the NFL including two this past Monday in addition to two tackles for loss.

The defensive lineman in his second season with the Bolts is close to surpassing his career-highs for a in a lot of different categories just five games into the year.

Fox has seen a lot of success in the NFL while in Staley's system, as he believes it's simply due to getting put in a position to make plays.

"It's the opportunities," Fox said. "This system, Coach Staley and [Chargers Outside Linebackers] Coach Giff [Smith] give you plenty of opportunities when you're out there.

"It's really just an opportunity to go out there and rush and make plays," Fox added.

The defensive lineman also credits the entire defensive line for having the success they have had rushing the passer so far, noting the togetherness in which they're playing with.

"I think I've been playing well," Fox said. "I think the defense overall is starting to move in that direction, playing a little bit better.

"There're obviously things that we can improve on, especially myself," Fox added. "Knowing certain situations, certain rush lanes, where things are going to hit, being able to play off of certain guys. Definitely trending in the right direction."

Fox later added: "Just rushing together. Rushing as a unit, understanding where guys are going to be, playing off of each other."

The Bolts defense as a whole has been effective rushing the passer through the first third of the season.

In five games, the team has recorded 21 sacks this season, good for the fourth-most in the NFL this season — and the only team in the top five to have already had their bye week.

Khalil Mack leads the group with seven of those sacks, while Fox has five himself.

The production and getting to the quarterback have been caused in large part by the Bolts ability to stop the run according to Staley, which is allowing players like Mack and Fox the ability to get in the backfield and take down the quarterback.

"When you can get into a rhythm as a rusher that's as good as Khalil is, I think you're going to be consistent around the quarterback, which is what he's been," Staley said. "I would say the same thing about Foxy, it really starts with us killing the run and when they get those consistent opportunities pass rushing, those guys are really good."

Keyed on Kelce

The Bolts defense has faced their fair share of elite pass catchers to start the year — but this week the matchup will be one a bit different and yet, familiar.

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce leads all tight ends in football with 346 receiving yards, as he's played in five out of the Chiefs' first six games. He continues to be quarterback Patrick Mahomes' favorite target, leading Kansas City in receptions, targets and yards once again.

It'll be another round in the Kelce versus the Chargers defense — and another round against safety Derwin James, Jr. — as the two have had their battles over the past couple of seasons.

"I would say his ability to get open," James said about Kelce on Wednesday. "He's always finding his way to get open, yards after the catch he's one of the best at doing that.

"I just have to be ready, and we got to be ready," James added.

Year-in and year-out, Kelce remains at the top of the league at his position in a variety of ways, as Staley detailed what makes him a special player and the connection he has with his quarterback that makes it hard to defend.

"He does everything at such a premium level as a receiver," Staley said. "I think what's tough is just the chemistry that him and Pat have. No matter what the coverage is, man or zone, pattern-match zone, doesn't matter, he's just got an outstanding feel of how to attack and beat leverage.

Staley continued: "When you have that type of feel in the passing game, he can get open when the play isn't necessarily designed to go that way. And then he and Pat just have that eye contact, that chemistry of feeling space and areas and going to it.

"The other thing that Travis does a really good job of is running with the football after the catch," Staley added. "He's one of the top tight ends to ever play. A lot of respect for him."

In the two games during the 2022 season, James allowed just four catches in eight targets while covering Kelce, according to Pro Football Focus. It's always a physical affair when these two line up against each other and will be a big matchup to watch on Sunday afternoon.

The Bolts know that when playing a player of that magnitude, their best shot will be mixing it up and try to make it as challenging as possible.

"What you've got to be able to do is you've got to make it tough on him," Staley said. "You've got to make sure you're mixing the coverages up, the matchups and making him have to earn all the catches that he gets.

"When you're playing against a premium player, that's what you want to do. If there's enough targets there's going to be some catches," Staley added. "But we can make sure that they're tough catches, that they're contested and that we tackle the catch because he's a dangerous player with the ball in his hands."

James added: "Doing my job, knowing my defense, executing it. And like I said, going out there and giving him different looks and changing it up on him."

Bolt Up!

Secure your Chargers Mini Plan today! Click here to learn more.

Related Content

From Our Partners