Justin Herbert impresses Chargers teammates with work ethic

It is a routine that’s anything but routine, Justin Herbert hanging around after most of his teammates have left the practice field to throw more passes.

A perfectionist chasing perfection.

“This guy’s out here like an hour and a half after just throwing the same route over and over and over,” wide receiver Keenan Allen said. “If it’s not a spiral, he’ll just keep throwing the same one. It’s crazy.”

The longest tenured of all the Chargers, Allen was asked about Herbert’s predecessor with the team, Philip Rivers.

“Philip never stayed after practice to throw the ball,” Allen joked.

Entering his third season and coming off his first Pro Bowl selection, Herbert explained that he likes to put in extra work on any throws that didn’t feel quite right in practice.

He said the drills often are more about things like ball placement and stepping forward in the pocket and delivering a strike rather than how tightly the ball is spiraling.

“I think it’s just based on whatever happened that day,” he said. “If there are a couple throws during practice that maybe I missed or maybe I felt could have been better, after practice is the time to address those.

“I can get as mad or as happy after practice as I want. But, during practice, I need to be level-headed and focused. You can’t let the last play affect your next one. So that’s kind of the purpose of [doing] that after practice.”

The exercise is not unlike a golfer going to the range following a round to work on a certain shot or a specific club.

Herbert said he has been putting in the extra sessions for years and has no plans of adjusting his regimen
. Asked why he feels such a commitment, Herbert said, “I think that’s just part of playing quarterback.”

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert looks to pass against the Denver Broncos on Jan. 2.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert looks to pass against the Denver Broncos on Jan. 2.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

“As a quarterback, I need to be at my best for these guys,” he continued. “If I let them down during practice, I need to stay out after, and work and continue to be the best that I can be for those guys.”

Given all the throwing, it is notable that the other starting NFL quarterback in L.A., Matthew Stafford, is dealing with tendinitis in his right elbow. Stafford is entering his 14th season and is 10 years Herbert’s senior.

Herbert said he feels like he has taken proper care of his arm to date and made reference to icing down after the Chargers’ joint practice with the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday.

He said his career already has taken him to places he didn’t foresee and, for that reason, feels a freedom to pursue whatever might be next.

“I’ve made it farther than I ever thought I was going to,” Herbert said. “So at this point, if I just do my best, I can’t complain. If I go out there and work as hard as I can on every single rep … I could fail and still be proud of myself.”

Offensive line bounces back

After a particularly rough practice Wednesday trying to protect Herbert, the Chargers’ offensive front rebounded with a more encouraging performance Thursday.

During 11-on-11, there were only two clear examples of plays that likely would have resulted in sacks in a live game. One of those happened when Dallas linebacker Leighton Vander Esch came on a middle blitz and was untouched.

“We were able to go to the meeting rooms and kind of adjust and have a new plan going in [to Thursday],” Herbert said. “I thought we answered better. We were more firm upfront. I thought those guys upfront did a great job.”

One of the highlights for the offense came when Herbert hit Allen for a three-yard touchdown to finish a red-zone period.

The Chargers went without a huddle on the play immediately after a run by Joshua Kelley was stopped for no gain. That decision had the Cowboys scrambling.

Coming off a play-action fake, Herbert rolled to his right and fired the ball to Allen near the back corner of the end zone.

Allen waited until the last moment to raise his hands before catching the pass near his right shoulder, fooling cornerback Trevon Diggs, who had his back turned to Herbert.

Unfortunately for the Chargers, the first-team offense’s next play wasn’t so memorable. Attempting to work a two-minute drill, the series lasted only one play.

Under pressure surrendered by the left side of the line, Herbert fired a pass into the left flat area, when Vander Esch made a leaping interception.

Injury update

Rookie cornerback Ja’Sir Taylor was held out of practice because of a soft-tissue injury, Staley said, in hopes he will be able to play Saturday when the Chargers and Cowboys meet in a preseason game at SoFi Stadium.

Safety Mark Webb Jr. (calf), cornerback Tevaughn Campbell (knee) and edge rushers Emeke Egbule (undisclosed) and Ty Shelby (leg) also didn’t practice.

Other observations from Thursday’s practice

  • On the first play of 11-on-11, Herbert underthrew Mike Williams, who was open on a deep route, and the ball was nearly intercepted by Dallas cornerback DaRon Bland.
  • Herbert later was given ample time on consecutive plays to complete passes to Allen and Williams for significant gains on crossing routes.
  • Rookie right guard Zion Johnson was called for a false start.
  • The only confrontational exchange between the teams over the two days of joint practices came Thursday and involved Chargers tight end Gerald Everett and one of the Cowboys. The heated moment passed quickly without further incident.

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