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Raiders-Chargers Week 13 preview: Focus on Justin Herbert

Raiders’ defensive coordinator Patrick Graham is controlling Chargers’ quarterback

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert in Week 1 against Raiders
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As he has been in the first three seasons and he will be the for the foreseeable future, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert will be the focal point of the Las Vegas Raiders’ defensive plan Sunday.

The Chargers visit the Raiders on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium. Kickoff at 1:25 p.m. PT.

Herbert, a third-year player, has been terrific against the Raiders. He was strong in Week 1 as the Chargers beat the Raiders 24-19 at SoFi Stadium. Herbert completed 26 of 34 pass attempts for 279 yards and three touchdowns. He did not throw an interception.

Las Vegas defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said he trying to contain Herbert on Sunday is, of course, a major focal point for him and his unit.

“He (can) throw the ball. He can throw it to any part of the field. Great arm strength,” Graham said of Herbert. “You see the intelligence in terms of getting in and out of plays, you see that. And then obviously, once you start getting some years under you, he’s seen a bunch of looks, the experience comes. You got to make sure you’re disguising certain looks. Just the growth of a young quarterback with all the physical skills and the mental capability is tough. And then, on top of that, when he gets in trouble, he can make plays with his feet. It’s not like he’s just running just for the sake of running. He’s running the throw the ball down the field or running to get first downs. So, it’s a difficult challenge just because of all the things that come along with the physical, the mental, and then with the experience.”

Graham said reviewing of the game film of Herbert’s Week 1 performance is a big part of this week’s preparation. However, Graham, who was the New York Giants’ defensive coordinator last year, also noted that he will review the Week 14 film when the Chargers beat his Giants 37-21. Like the other time Graham has faced Herbert, the young gunslinger had his way. Herbert was 23 of 31 for 275 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in that game.

Thus, against Graham-coached teams, Herbert is 2-0 and he has completed 49 of 65 for 554 yards with 6 touchdown passes and no interceptions.

“You definitely go back and look at the first game. You go back and look at last year’s game with the Giants,” Graham said. “You try and gather as much information as possible. They’re doing the same thing I would assume. And from there formulate the best game plan in terms of who they have now, who they’re playing with now, and then go from there.”

If the Raiders are going to win their third straight game and avoid a Chargers’ season sweep, they will need to slow down Herbert.