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Evaluating Justin Herbert’s Offensive Rookie of the Year chances

Justin Herbert is a leading candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year, but he struggled mightily last week against the Miami Dolphins.

Evaluating Justin Herbert’s Offensive Rookie of the Year chances
(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

A little more than a month ago, I wrote an article about Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate Justin Herbert. At the time, the Los Angeles Chargers sat at 1-4, having lost Herbert’s first four NFL starts. However, it was clear that Herbert was performing at a level higher than what his record suggested. His Offensive Value Metric (OVM) grade of 29.15 was above the NFL average, and his grades from Weeks 4 and 5 were his highest of the season and promised that the best was yet to come from the Oregon product.

Based on that success, I suggested that Los Angeles’ next game against the Jacksonville Jaguars would be a fantastic opportunity for Herbert to pick up his first win as a starter. And I was right! The Chargers beat Jacksonville 39-29, earning Herbert his first NFL victory.

Unfortunately, that didn’t translate to further team success, and Los Angeles proceeded to lose their next three games. The general consensus is that Justin Herbert isn’t at fault for many of those defeats, which is why he is still a leading candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year. However, Herbert’s OVM grade in Week 10 casts some doubts on those chances, particularly with competition hot on his heels.

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Examining Justin Herbert’s Week 10 OVM grade

OVM is a grading system created by the (Bx) Movement to measure how much impact a player had on their offense’s success. As I already mentioned, Herbert had performed well on this metric early in the season. However, last week against the Miami Dolphins, led by Herbert’s fellow rookie Tua Tagovailoa, Herbert had his worst game of the season by almost any standard. He threw for a season-low 187 yards alongside two touchdowns and an interception.

Related | Top 10 running backs from Week 10 via PFN’s OVM

Meanwhile, the OVM gave him his worst grade of the season by a significant margin; at 13.8, it is more than 7 points worse than his previous low. That grade indicates that not only did Herbert perform poorly in terms of his box score statistics, he also failed to influence the game in significant ways. It was an all-around ineffectual game from the rookie.

Now, to Herbert’s credit, the Dolphins defense has been excellent this season, ranking fourth in the NFL in points allowed, thanks in large part to their 15 takeaways, tied for the fourth-highest total. But the best quarterbacks can overcome even the most challenging situations, and Herbert failed to do so in Miami.

Explaining why Herbert’s grade was so low

In Week 10, Justin Herbert performed poorly on almost every metric that goes into calculating a quarterback’s OVM grade. His completion percentage of 62.5% was below the league average, and, according to the NFL’s calculations, that number was 2.6% lower than expected. He also threw the ball an average of just 7.1 yards downfield across all of his pass attempts, which was bottom 10 in the NFL in Week 10.

Related | Top NFL wide receivers from Week 10 via PFN’s OVM

When you look exclusively at his completions, the number is even lower, at just 2.7 yards downfield on average. Combining those statistics paints an unpleasant picture of Herbert’s performance. He didn’t push the ball aggressively downfield but still failed to complete a high percentage of his passes, even missing on many throws that should have resulted in completions.

Will Herbert still win Offensive Rookie of the Year?

Justin Herbert’s struggles against the Dolphins wouldn’t be so concerning if his challengers for Offensive Rookie of the Year weren’t so close behind him. His primary competition, Joe Burrow, also had a difficult Week 10 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who might be the NFL’s best team. Burrow’s grade on Sunday of 12.24 was even worse than Herbert’s, but his overall grade sits about two points higher than Herbert’s, at 28.87.

Meanwhile, Tua is rapidly becoming a threat. Although he has only started three games, in each of the last two weeks he has received an OVM grade higher than any that Herbert has earned all season. Perhaps more importantly, his team is winning. Whether or not you blame Herbert for the Chargers’ lack of success in the win column, his abysmal win percentage certainly isn’t a mark in his favor. If Tua continues to play well and his Dolphins wind up making a playoff run, he might find himself being named Offensive Rookie of the Year despite his small sample size.

Fortunately for Herbert, he still has better box score statistics than both Tua and Burrow, which gives him a significant advantage. And if he bounces back from Sunday’s game with solid performances in the coming weeks, he could cement himself as the clear leader. However, with a few more performances like the one he had in Week 10, Herbert might well find himself overtaken by the chasers as the race nears the finish line.

Lucas Ellinas is a writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter @Lucas_Ellinas.

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