After the Dallas Cowboys secondary allowed the Buccaneers to throw the ball all over them in their season-opening loss, their job doesn’t figure to be any easier in Week 2. Ascending quarterback Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers passing attack will be another tall task for a depleted Dallas defense.
The No. 6 pick of the 2020 draft, Herbert was third QB off the board but found the most success of all first-year guys, throwing for 4,363 yards and 31 TDs on the way to Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Herbert promptly picked up this season from where he left off, leading the Chargers to a 1-0 start in with a victory over Washington.
Last year, Herbert opened eyes with his big-time throws, but it was his development as a more complete passer that was noteworthy in Week 1.
31/47, 337 passing yards, and a touchdown.
— NFL (@NFL) September 15, 2021
Most impressive was Herbert’s work on third down, which made the difference for his team. His ability to maintain poise under pressure and in difficult situations is what makes Herbert’s career trajectory seem so promising. His third-down success against Washington was highly impressive.
#Chargers QB Justin Herbert
3rd down vs. WASH — 13-of-16, 160 yards, 1 TD; 98.3 QBR.
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) September 15, 2021
On 3rd & 16 from their own 12-yard line with 5:29 left in the game (up by 4), Justin Herbert and the Chargers offense converts on a 17-yard pass to Keenan Allen.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 12, 2021
The Dallas coaching staff is well-aware of who will be lining up across from them on Sunday, preparing as if they’d be facing a Dak Prescott or Russell Wilson given Herbert’s ability to extend plays and keep his eyes down the field.
But the weapons around Herbert will also be difficult to contain. Much like WRs Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin each recorded 100+ receiving yards in Week 1, multiple Chargers receivers might be keeping the likes of Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis very busy.
Veteran WR Keenan Allen is still plenty capable of doing damage all over the field, but the complimentary pieces around him are also very talented. Mike Williams, the 6-4 big-bodied wideout, makes contested catches with the best of them, and speedster Jalen Guyton, a former Cowboys UDFA and University of North Texas product is also making progress in his third season. Noted Cowboys killer TE Jared Cook also lingers as another receiving threat for Herbert, who joined Los Angeles on a one-year, $6 million dollar deal in the offseason.
Getting pressure on Herbert will be crucial, but the Cowboys will have to do so without DeMarcus Lawrence or Randy Gregory. Los Angeles comfortably handled Washington’s loaded defensive front in Week 1, which does not bode well for a Cowboys defense that will be missing their best pass rushing threats.
#Chargers only allowed pressures on 12.2% of Justin Herbert’s dropbacks yesterday, per @TruMediaSports. That was the lowest rate in the league. Just an incredibly impressive performance against one of the best defensive fronts in football.
— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) September 13, 2021
If the Dallas defensive line is unable to get home on Herbert, rookie LT Rashawn Slater will likely be a big reason why. Scooped by the Chargers with the very next pick after Dallas selected Micah Parsons in the 2021 draft, Slater was considered a plug-and-play offensive lineman that would’ve paid immediate dividends for a Cowboys team navigating the early part of their season without Zack Martin or La’el Collins. Instead, Slater will be pitted against Dallas in just his second career game, making their lives even more difficult as the Cowboys try to even their record on the road.
The Chargers will be without their starting right tackle, Brian Bulaga though.
Luckily for Dallas, they have the offensive firepower themselves to hang with anyone. They’ll likely need all of it to keep pace with Herbert and the Chargers offense in Week 2, who figure to put up both points and yards on a Dallas defenses still finding its way.