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5 Takeaways: Why Justin Herbert Raved About Jim Harbaugh's Impact on the Chargers


The Chargers wrapped up minicamp Thursday as they also held the final practice at Hoag Performance Center.

The Bolts will soon move into The Bolt, their brand-new facility that will host training camp.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert spoke with reporters for 25-plus minutes Thursday in his first media availability since January

There was a lot to cover, so here are five takeaways from Herbert's press conference:

1. Herbert on Harbaugh

The Chargers organization looks vastly different than it did when Herbert last chatted with reporters on January 8.

The most seismic move, of course, was hiring Chargers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh in late January.

Herbert went into detail Thursday about his new head coach, a man whom he said "sets the standard" in the building in every way.

"He's a competitor. He's done such a great job of taking this team and getting them to where he wants us to go," Herbert said. "He's won wherever he's at and he's a guy that people want to follow and play for. Really excited to get to play for him."

Harbaugh, of course, is a former NFL quarterback who played 14 seasons, including his final two with the Chargers in 1999 and 2000.

Herbert said having that expertise in the quarterback room has been invaluable.

"It's really cool. For him to come into the quarterback room and share his thoughts, it's great perspective," Herbert said. "He's done it, and has coached and played at such a high level for so long that any advice like that is great for us."

Herbert later added: "It's been an honor to play for him so far and to share that quarterback room with him. He's definitely a very intelligent, committed and competitive guy. He wants to win whatever he's playing."

Multiple Chargers players have sounded off on the belief they have in the current roster despite a rocky 2023 season that saw the Bolts miss the postseason.

Herbert echoed those sentiments Thursday.

"We're right there," Herbert said. "It's unfortunate it hasn't gone our way, but there's no doubt in my mind we have the right guys and the right staff. We just have to go out there and execute. We have that faith we're going to get things right."

That obviously means a good amount will fall on No. 10, who is a team captain and the face of the franchise on the field.

Herbert said Thursday that he's continuing to grow as a leader, which includes wearing a standalone gold jersey in practice.

"If it's his rule," Herbert said of Harbaugh. "I'm following it. It doesn't matter what color it is. As long as I have a jersey."

And Herbert gave the final post-practice speech Thursday before the team broke for training camp.

"Just to keep stacking days and to know that we've put a great foundation into this offseason … to have the commitment we did this offseason, that was awesome and I wanted to share that with them," Herbert said of his message. "And then this next month being the most important month where we're away from the facility and on our own but to not give up what we've already put in.

"Make sure we're doing everything we can so that when [training] camp comes around, we're ready to be," Herbert added. "If we want to be the team we want to be, it starts now … and having that level of loyalty and dedication and integrity to be able to carry that through."

Harbaugh earlier Thursday noted how important Herbert is to the culture of the Bolts.

"Another tone setter on the team. Incredible in every way," Harbaugh said. "You've heard it said that people that make a lot of money, they get complacent. Not true.

"He has spent every minute, every hour, every day completely engaged," Harbaugh added. "Tremendous tone setter, example setter for the entire team."

With the calendar only in mid-June, Herbert knows the work and the grind that lies ahead.

But he made it clear that he likes where the Bolts stand right now, with an emphasis on who the head coach is.

"We're going to keep fighting," Herbert said. "We've got the guys in here to keep fighting and especially the head coach that wants to make that happen. We're all for it."

2. A new-look WR room

The Bolts roster underwent significant changes this offseason, and no position group was impacted more than the wide receiver room.

A pair of Herbert's longtime and favorite targets — Keenan Allen and Mike Williams — are now on different teams. Allen was traded to Chicago and Williams signed with the Jets after the Chargers released him.

Herbert on Thursday gave his thoughts on the duo no longer being on the roster.

"They are two of the best to ever do it. Two great teammates, friends, competitors. It's tough to replace guys like that because there's not many like them," Herbert said. "But I feel comfortable with the group we have here that have stepped up and done a great job picking up this offense and going out there and competing.

"I know we don't have pads on or anything but I love the day they attack the day of practice, weights, tape, film," Herbert continued. "That receiver group is special and I'm looking forward to throwing them the ball.

"Obviously, touch losing two friends like Mike and Keenan," Herbert added. "But I wish them the absolute best. No matter where they go, I'll always be a fan of them."

The Bolts have a handful of returning wide receivers, a group that includes Joshua Palmer, Quentin Johnston and Derius Davis. DJ Chark was added as a free agent while the Bolts also drafted three wide receivers beginning with Ladd McConkey in the second round.

"You could guess that it would be difficult, but it hasn't been at all. These guys have picked up everything, even the draft picks," Herbert said.

Get your first look at the Chargers in uniform for the 2024 season!

Herbert was specifically asked about McConkey, the No. 34 overall pick out of Georgia who has developed an early rapport with Herbert this spring.

"He's just picked up the offense so easily, it's like he's been a four of five-year vet," Herbert said. "He understands the game, understands leverages, a smart player.

"And he's very athletic. He's one of those guys who is able to beat man coverage and finds the soft spot in zones," Herbert added. "I'm really looking forward to getting him the ball."

Herbert also had praise for Johnston, a 2023 first-round pick who is looking to take a leap forward in Year 2.

"He's been incredible," Herbert said. "He's one of those guys that I'm going to get the ball to as much as possible."

3. A shuffled up O-line

In addition to working with a revamped pass catching group, Herbert is also adjusting to a new offensive line in front of him.

Rashawn Slater and Zion Johnson still man the left side of the line, but the center, right guard and right tackle spots have seen some shuffling.

The Bolts added Bradley Bozeman as a free agent this offseason as he has familiarity with Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman's scheme from their time together in Baltimore.

Herbert heaped praise on the veteran lineman on Thursday.

"Boze has been awesome," Herbert said. "He's stepped in immediately and he's been well received by the offensive line and fits in great with them.

"And he's smart, just very smart and athletic," Herbert added. "If you're able to have that combination, you're going to be a pretty good offensive lineman."

Trey Pipkins III, the Chargers starter at right tackle the past few years, has shifted inside to guard. Harbaugh and Herbert both counted Pipkins among the notable team leaders Thursday.

"Whether it's guard, whether it's tackle, you can rely on him to be whatever we need him to be," Herbert said. "He's done such a great job with that, especially in the weight room.

"His commitment, his leadership, the guy he is in the locker room, we're glad to have guys like him on the team," Herbert added.

Rookie Joe Alt, the No. 5 pick in the draft, has been working exclusively with the first-team offense at right tackle for the past two weeks.

Harbaugh said Tuesday that the five linemen listed above have all separated themselves as the starting unit right now.

Herbert said Alt has adjusted on the fly as a rookie and has been smart to hang with Slater and Pipkins as he moves to right tackle after primarily playing on the left side at Notre Dame.

"He fits right in as well," Herbert said of the 6-foot-9 Alt. "He's just so talented and so smart, he's done a great job of picking up the offense and asking questions.

"To have two guys like Pip and Rashawn, who have had a ton of success in this league, he's learning as much as he can from them," Herbert added.

4. Balance on offense

Herbert dove deep on Roman's scheme Thursday, noting it has been "complex and difficult to learn" over the past few months.

But after each installation period — Herbert said the Chargers have done three of them — he's felt more and more comfortable with the system.

"I've done a good job of getting in the playbook," Herbert said. "As the quarterback, you have to know the ins and outs of the offense, you have to know every role, you have to know it all.

"If [someone] comes to you with a question, it's either, 'Here's the answer or I'll go find the answer for you.' But the [coaches] in the quarterback room have done a great job supporting me and I have felt comfortable picking it up," Herbert added.

The Chargers held a special practice session for military families on the first day of mini-camp 2024 at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, California

Perhaps the biggest questing surrounding Herbert and the offense has been this: With Roman's scheme being fairly run-heavy in the past, how does that affect the arm of No. 10?

Herbert said Thursday that his ultimate goal is to win, and that he'll do whatever it takes to make that happen. But make no mistake about it, he also wants the ball in his hands.

"Selfishly as a quarterback, I'd like to throw the ball every time," Herbert said. "But if we throw it one time or throw it 100 times, as long as we're winning and finding ways to do that, it's good with me."

Herbert later noted that the vibe of the offense is for Roman to decide. But he again reiterated his competitiveness and yearning to make plays for his team.

"The way we've installed everything, we want to be able to everything," Herbert said. "We want to look at, 'Hey, this is how we see ourselves and this is what we've got.' You want to play to your strengths.

"One game, maybe we throw the ball 30 times. One game, maybe we throw it 15 times," Herbert later added. "As long as we're finding a way to win and being able to do both, I think we'll be a talented and successful team."

What about 50 pass attempts a game?

Herbert smiled when the question was asked.

"50 times. 70 times. 80 times. The more, the better," Herbert said.

Overall, Herbert said Roman and the offensive coaching staff have whittled down the measurements of success to three areas at this point.

"Completions, touchdowns, explosives … that's the goal," Herbert said.

5. The return of Shane Day

For the most part, Herbert is working with a collection of new faces on Harbaugh's staff.

In addition to Roman, Herbert said that Passing Game Coordinator Marcus Brady and senior offensive assistant Marc Trestman have also played vital roles this offseason.

"They've had so much success in this league, when you're around them you're going to pick something up," Herbert said.

"The more football you can be around, the better," Herbert later added.

But Herbert's face lit up when he was asked about quarterbacks coach Shane Day, who was Herbert's position coach in 2021 and 2022 before spending last season in Houston.

And Herbert made it clear that he had input on Day's return to the Bolts.

"He's an incredible coach and has done such a great job for this quarterback room," Herbert said. "The relationship that he has with Easton [Stick] and I … we've done a great job of picking up right where we left off. Obviously, tough losing him for a year.

"But when the question came up of who I thought was best for that position, Shane was the No. 1 guy," Herbert added. "Really glad to be working with him again."

Day helped coach Herbert to his lone Pro Bowl appearance in 2021 when the quarterback threw for 5,014 yards and 38 touchdowns.

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