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Justin Herbert, Sophomore Slump or Bump

Justin Herbert or ‘Herbie’: the darling of NFL fans and sports card collectors alike

Following his remarkable Rookie of the Year campaign, the Herbert hype train continues at full steam ahead, with jerseys flying out the shops and collectors continuing to spend huge amounts on what they hope will be the next golden ticket of the sports card world. With so much invested in his future the question many people are now asking is, “how will Justin Herbert fare in his sophomore year?”

If you look back at his record-breaking rookie year, it’s easy to see why Herbert captures the hearts of both fans and collectors. Despite a pre-season decimated by COVID, Herbert was able step in following Tyrod Taylor’s injury and put in a remarkable debut performance against the Super Bowl champions, Kansas City. The 23-year-old has not looked back since and went on to break numerous rookie records and win Offensive Rookie of the Year honours.

Combine this with an already booming sports card industry and Herbert soon became the rather expensive apple of many collector’s eye. Just a quick scan through YouTube and you’ll see the common factor of a good box break being the air of excitement of a big ‘Herbie’ pull and the inevitable disappointment when Jacob Eason shows his face instead.

What goes up must come down, right? Herbert collectors will be hoping it’s just his lofty deep balls that hold true to the saying. The quarterback’s sophomore year will be seen by many as the next step on his way to the Hall of Fame, but there will of course be factors for Herbert to overcome.

Justin Herbert MVP?

Justin Herbert slinging it in training camp (Image Credit – Boltbeat)

The Chargers strength of schedule for its QB is one of the more difficult in the league with two division games against the Broncos, as well as tricky contests against the Ravens, Steelers, Browns, Patriots and Washington. Last season’s humbling week 13 loss to the Patriots was a reminder that Herbert is indeed a mere mortal, outlined by his 209-yard, two interception stat line. However, this was one of only two games where Herbert threw multiple interceptions.

Justin Herbert will also have to learn a new offensive scheme, under newly hired Offensive Coordinator, Joe Lombardi. Learning a new offense is a daunting task for any young quarterback but this will be Herbert’s sixth offensive coordinator in six years, so his previous experience of adapting quickly should be a big benefit.

There will be more new faces along the offensive line, as the Chargers let four of their five starters leave in free agency. There will be some optimism that this will work to Herbert’s advantage as the empty spaces were upgraded with All-pro centre Corey Linsley and 13th overall pick Rashawn Slater in the recent draft.

Herbert will also have some new toys to play with in the form of two third round draft picks Josh Palmer (WR) and Tre’ McKitty (TE) as well as free agency pick up Jared Cook. Add these to the already strong group including Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and the returning Austin Ekeler and Herbert will have no shortage of weapons at his disposal.

The signs point towards Herbert having another standout year, but with expectations already at fever pitch levels, will it be enough to keep prices rising in an increasingly volatile sports card market. It may be a case of ‘Herbie’ having placed the bar so high for himself, that only an MVP type season or a playoff run will be enough to please many.

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