Any given week, Bill Belichick generally finds a way to compliment his upcoming opponent. Not one to provide bulletin board material, he tends to stick to the high notes.
Sometimes, that positivity has to be manufactured. For instance, he called the Jets ‘a challenge’ last Wednesday, before beating them 54-13. Earlier this season, Andrew Callahan of the Boston Herald pointed out Belichick will often say a quarterback “can make all the throws” regardless of that player’s overall level of performance.
Yet there was no twisting of words Monday morning when Belichick was asked about Chargers’ quarterback Justin Herbert, who the Patriots face next week. Asked what has allowed Herbert to be so successful so early in his career, Belichick replied with conviction “because he’s really good. Yeah, he’s really good.”
Herbert has unquestionably been “really good” since stepping in as the Chargers’ starter in Week 2 last season. Since then, the 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year ranks seventh in the league in passing yards (6,107) and eighth in touchdowns (45). Perhaps more impressively for a young quarterback, he’s tied for the fourth-lowest interception percentage of all qualifying quarterbacks, with just 1.66 percent of his pass attempts getting picked off.
Belichick’s apparent admiration for Herbert predates his success in the NFL, and goes back to the Patriots studying him during the pre-draft process. “I thought he was outstanding [during pre-draft evaluations]. Just had everything you’re looking for,” Belichick recalled. “He’s very athletic, good arm, lot of poise. Played well at Oregon, had a number of big plays, all the passes, all the throws, but extended plays, scrambles, could run the read zone and all of that. I mean he’s as good a quarterback as I’ve seen come out here in quite a while – especially as it fits the pro game. I don’t think you’re going to find too many better than him. This guy is really an impressive player.”
For all his respect, Belichick certainly got the better of Herbert when the Patriots visited Los Angeles last year. That Week 13 matchup is the lowest-rated game of Herbert’s career so far, and the only one in which he has failed to throw at least one touchdown pass. He completed 26-of-53 passes against Belichick’s defense, throwing for just 206 yards with a pair of interceptions while taking three sacks as the Patriots blanked the Chargers 45-0. Still, his performance caught Belichick’s attention.
“I thought that he was really good when we played him last year. Luckily we had a pretty good day but I’m not counting on that again,” Belichick said on Monday. “I have a ton of respect for him. I think he’s going to be one of the top quarterbacks in the league for a long time to come.”
Through six games this season, Herbert is completing 65.4 percent of his passes, and is averaging just under 300 passing yards per game with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s led the Chargers to a 4-2 record, with last week being their bye.
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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.