COSTA MESA, Calif. — This offense has looked different since week three in Minnesota. They got into a slugfest and scored 14 points in the second half. They have scored 10 in the last three games.
That was also the last game receiver Mike Williams and center Corey Linsley suited up. Williams was lost to a torn ACL, while Linsley was placed on the reserve/non-football illness list with a non-emergent heart-related issue.
“Any time you lose a guy like Mike or Corey, it’s going to be tough,” quarterback Justin Herbert said. “We’re thankful for the guys that have stepped up. We found out a lot about the guys that we have behind them. We’ve got complete faith and confidence in those guys.”
Will Clapp has stepped in for Linsley and done a serviceable job, but there have been some struggles not just from Clapp but the offensive line as a whole.
Since Williams’s injury, Herbert has been pressured at 42.8% on 138 dropbacks, according to NextGenStats.
A week after losing Williams, Herbert injured his middle finger after throwing his first interception against the Raiders. His finger got caught in a helmet, and he has had it heavily tapped and in a glove since that play.
“Since I don’t have the middle finger full strength-wise, the grip on the ball is the important part of having the glove where you’re able to control it,” Herbert said. “The pocket gets tight, so being able to grip it and hold onto the ball is the toughest part without the middle finger. I think that’s kind of helpful for the games.”
His completion percentage has dipped from 74% to 57% in the last three games. Many factors are in play but make no mistake, the offense is struggling.
Plays that were automatic haven’t been in the last few weeks, like Herbert hitting receiver Keenan Allen…it hasn’t been there.
In the last two games, Herbert and Allen have misfired on four passes that could have changed the outcome of either game.
“Me and Justin, we have incredible chemistry, you know, and sometimes it just doesn’t go on to hoop, so to speak,” Allen explained. “We are just going to keep playing.”
During his rookie year, Herbert was on the run toward his left against the New York Jets and threw a missile toward Allen, who had a cornerback all over him but adjusted at the last minute to make the catch.
That is a quarterback knowing where the receiver is going to be. How often hasn’t Allen pointed at Herbert in recognition of a great throw?
It has been a struggle lately in all areas of the offense.
“We had to talk today, and we are just gonna get back to the basics,” Allen said. “And just try to get back on the same page.”
One of the overthrows against the Cowboys was Allen shaking off cornerback DaRon Bland and being all alone. If Herbert makes the pass, Allen had one defender to beat.
“I’ve just missed them,” Herbert said. “Those are throws that I know that I can make. I’ve missed them. That’s what it is. It’s nothing other than I missed them.”
Last weekend against the Chiefs, he missed Allen running wide open in the end zone, similar to a play they ran against the Titans in which he did hit Allen for the touchdown.
He also missed him on a crucial third down, putting too much mustard on the ball.
Herbert hasn’t shied away from shouldering the blame.
“It’s on me to be able to deliver the ball,” Herbert said.
The offense has also failed to get Quentin Johnston involved, and with Josh Palmer being day-to-day with a knee injury, they may need him more than ever.
Allen is a leader of this team, so talking things over with Herbert to improve and helping Johnston out is something he has done often during his tenure.
“Just stay locked in. The ball is coming to you,” Allen said on his advice to Johnston. “That one time you think is not coming, and that’s when it’s coming. You just got to stay ready.”
The offense needs to fix the Herbert and Allen miscues before anything else, then the offensive line to the running game and everything else, but the players have confidence they can fix it.
It will start on Sunday when they face the Chicago Bears, whose defense is coming off holding Raiders star receiver Davante Adams to only 57 yards.
“We all know for sure that it’s going to click,” Allen said.