In a think-piece that analyzed every starting quarterback’s weaknesses across the NFL, ESPN writer Aaron Schatz made a compelling case that Los Angeles Chargers’ signal caller Justin Herbert struggles in the second halves of games. In his analysis, Schatz pointed to Herbert’s lower passing DVOA, or defensive-adjusted value over average, as a key indicator of Herbert’s supposed deficiency in this facet of his game, and said that the trend started well before the 2022 season.
The argument goes like this: Herbert’s passing DVOA, which measures his efficiency against an average based on opponent and situation, has dropped from 14.6 percent in first halves to -18.2 percent in second halves this year. This dramatic change is comparable to his numbers in 2021 where Herbert’s first-half passing score DVOA was 23.4% and 12.3% in the second.
This might sound like a death sentence for the narrative that Herbert is a clutch performer during crunch time. But the basic statistics show a very different story. Herbert is back in the fourth quarter of 2022 with four comebacks. He has also been much more careful when it comes to throwing into coverage. In 13 games, he has thrown seven interceptions.
This isn’t to say that Schatz’s analysis isn’t without merit, but Herbert’s excellent play in this season shouldn’t be swept under the rug because one highly specific statistic points towards inefficiencies in the third and fourth quarters. As with all stats, passing DVOA doesn’t tell the whole story.
Herbert has been without one of his top receivers most of the season. The Chargers have also dealt with an overwhelming number injuries during the year. Keenan Allen, star wideout, has only played in six 2022 games. Mike Williams was absent from Week 8 through Week 11.
Even without these key pieces in the offense for much of the season, Herbert has put himself in a position to surpass the 4,000-yard mark in Week 15 against the Tennessee Titans and should be considered one of the NFL’s top young quarterbacks.