Justin Herbert doesn’t have Chargers’ offense humming, but he’s getting in tune

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert prepares to throw during a practice.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert prepares to throw a during practice at the Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
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In one of his first attempts to prove he’s a team player,Justin Herbert was forced to do a solo.

The Chargers’ rookie quarterback, in a training camp tradition that likely dates to leather helmets, recently had to stand up in front of his teammates and sing.

Given his choice of tunes, Herbert opted for the soulful “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” which was released more than three decades before he was born.

“I tried to pick a song that everyone knew and hopefully would sing along to,” Herbert explained. “But I didn’t get that.”


Two weeks into his first NFL training camp, Herbert continues the transition from college star to pro prospect. The sixth overall pick in April, he will start the season behind veteran Tyrod Taylor.

Episode 3 of “Hard Knocks” took a look at the Chargers and Rams training camps with players in full pads.

Aug. 25, 2020

Herbert has had bright moments in practice, such as a touchdown pass to tight end Stephen Anderson on a perfectly thrown seam route, and ugly ones, such as a screen that Melvin Ingram intercepted and returned for a defensive score.

In between, Herbert said he is finding his way.

“Being a good quarterback does not come down to every single little play,” he said. “It’s much bigger than that. It’s always about putting your team in position to win. You might throw an incompletion or an interception, but it’s about coming back on the next one and putting your team back in position and making up for it.”

The Chargers coaching staff steadily has been ramping up the load on Herbert. This week, they matched him against the No. 1 defense, a group expected to be the team’s backbone.

Quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton said the idea is to test Herbert’s recognition of what defenses are doing, something he called the most important part of development at the position.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert works with quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert works with quarterback Tyrod Taylor as the team conducts practice at the Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa on Aug. 17.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Herbert confirmed that picking up the various protections based on what the defense is showing has been an adjustment.

“Definitely lining up across from Joey Bosa and Melvin and a lot of those guys, Derwin James, has been something that’s been really a cool experience,” he said. “Any chance I can get to go out there and compete with those guys has been really special.”


Along with learning about the NFL, Herbert also is experiencing for the first time life away from Eugene, Ore., where he was born and raised and attended school through college.

“I really enjoyed my time in Eugene and it was always great for me,” he said. “But I’m glad to finally be able to step away and kind of be out on my own and make my own schedule. It’s been all football for me.”

Murray hits home

The Chargers’ other first-round pick, Kenneth Murray Jr., used some of his first money as a pro to buy his parents a new home, something he said had been a personal goal.

“You grow up and you see your parents making sacrifices so that you could be who you want to be,” he said. “I feel like it was my duty to just go out there and be able to put them in a nice place.”

Murray, who is from Texas and played at Oklahoma, said his family is moving this week.

The 23rd overall selection, Murray has been playing middle linebacker as the Chargers attempt to take advantage of his speed and athletic ability.

The Chargers will experience SoFi Stadium for the first time with a scrimmage Thursday. The Chargers are Linval Joseph’s third team to open a stadium, and he says it’s exhilarating.

Aug. 25, 2020

“I feel like I fit right in the middle, flying around, running and hitting,” he said when asked where he fits into the defensive scheme. “I feel like that’s what I do best.”


From his vantage point, Murray has an excellent view of a defensive front that includes, among others, 6-foot-4, 329-pound Linval Joseph and 6-3, 309-pound Justin Jones in the middle.

“I see the big boys in front of me and I just laugh,” Murray said. “I’ve never had three or four big boys like that in front of me before. All those guys up front can play ball. … Huge dudes. They’ll keep the big boys off of me.”

SoFi scrimmage

The Chargers will scrimmage at 1 p.m. Thursday at SoFi Stadium, their collective debut in their new home.

Coach Anthony Lynn said conditions will mimic a regular game day, including the players wearing their full uniforms.

“A lot of these guys have never seen the place before,” he said. “The ones who did see it, it was still under construction. I want them to see the finished product so that when we go in there against Kansas City it’s not the first time they’ve been to their stadium.”

After opening the season Sept. 13 at Cincinnati, the Chargers play at home a week later against the Super Bowl-champion Chiefs.