Under pressure: Chargers, Herbert look to minimize sacks
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By JOE REEDY
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) Justin Herbert has gone from being one of the league's best-protected quarterbacks to the most-sacked in the span of two weeks.
The Chargers signal-caller was sacked only 12 times in Los Angeles' first nine games, but he went down nine times against Kansas City and Arizona.
Herbert is tied with New England's Mac Jones for most sacks taken the past two weeks.
"There is no one better than Justin at protecting the football, feeling the rush. It hasn't happened to him as much, but, sometimes, it is good to take a sack in the NFL," coach Brandon Staley said. "Sometimes, it's good to take a sack and be protected with the football instead of forcing something to happen that is not there."
The Chargers are facing a Las Vegas defense on Sunday that is tied for the second-fewest sacks in the league. But Los Angeles has issues of its own after two offensive linemen were injured in last week's 25-24 victory over the Cardinals.
Center Corey Linsley remains in the concussion protocol and right tackle Trey Pipkins also did not practice after aggravating a knee injury. Rookie left tackle Jamaree Salyer is dealing with a knee issue, but was a full participant during Wednesday's practice.
Linsley played all 17 games last season, but was inactive for two games and missed the second half of two others this season because of injuries. Pipkins missed the game at San Francisco three weeks ago.
While Staley might not be concerned about sack totals, he has to be slightly worried about the hits his third-year quarterback is taking in the backfield. Herbert has been hit 23 times in 90 dropbacks over the past two games.
Seven of the nine sacks occurred when teams lined up only four pass rushers.
Not all sacks can be attributed to breakdowns on the offensive line. A couple happened because defenses played excellent coverage and others can be blamed in part on Herbert for holding onto the ball too long.
One thing that has pleased Staley is that Herbert hasn't fumbled since he had two earlier this season.
"Each sack has a story and you have to make sure you look at it. I just think the one thing that Justin has proven is that he is an outstanding decision-maker and that he's really strong with the ball," Staley said.
"How you win games in the league is protecting the football and taking it away. We have done a good job of that and we'll keep working hard at protecting the passer."
If Linsley isn't cleared, Will Clapp would get his third start of the season while Foster Sarell would step in at right tackle.
Despite the rocky last two games, Herbert has been sacked on 4.5% of his dropbacks this season, which is tied for the fourth-lowest rate in the league.
NOTES: WR Mike Williams (ankle), S Derwin James (hip), CB Bryce Callahan (groin) and LB Khalil Mack (rest) did not practice. ... Punter JK Scott was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, the third time a Chargers specialist has received the honor.
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Updated November 30, 2022