Brandon Staley and Justin Herbert learning tough NFL lessons – Los Angeles Times

Young and still learning on the job, he has had back-to-back rough games, both ending in hollow, humbling defeat for him and the Chargers.

Justin Herbert? Yes. Brandon Staley too.

“He’s still seeing things for the first time a lot, just like I’m seeing things for the first time as a head coach,” Staley said Monday. “I’m going to have tough moments too, right?”

A rookie, Staley won four of his first five games with the Chargers. But the last two — a 34-6 loss at Baltimore and a 27-24 defeat to New England — have quickly sobered the outside perception of this team.

On offense, second-year quarterback Herbert and the rest of Chargers have appeared confused at times while scrambling to keep up with what the defenses are doing.

Following both losses, Herbert admitted that the opposition did things he wasn’t expecting. On Sunday, it was the pass defense of the Patriots, who played more zone than Herbert said he anticipated.

Staley, conversely, insisted the Chargers knew New England would frequently show man coverage pre-snap before dropping into zone because of matchup concerns. He said the team’s game plan was designed to specifically combat that strategy.

“What happened [Sunday] is part of the NFL, for both of us,” Staley said of the struggles. “It’s part of the NFL. And that’s what’s beautiful about it — you’re gonna learn a lot.”

These last two defeats for Staley have come against John Harbaugh and Bill Belichick, head coaches who have won Super Bowls and a combined 418 NFL regular-season games.

The Chargers’ next opponent is Philadelphia, and the Eagles offer a completely different challenge for Staley. Their head coach, Nick Sirianni, also is a rookie, one with three career wins.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert scrambles away from New England Patriots pass rushers.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert scrambles away from New England Patriots pass rushers in the fourth quarter of a 27-24 loss Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

It is an opportunity to go on the road against an opponent sitting at 3-5 and with a young quarterback of its own in Jalen Hurts and rediscover order and confidence because the Chargers could use a little of both.

On Monday, edge rusher Joey Bosa questioned why the Chargers didn’t adjust in-game against New England to try to pressure rookie quarterback Mac Jones more.

He said the Patriots were chip-blocking on both ends — if not double-teaming him — to keep him from getting close to Jones. Bosa said the Chargers had in their scheme the option of moving him inside, which they have done in the past.

“I think we need to do a better job of moving around and getting some opportunities where I’m getting out of chips,” Bosa said. “They were not gonna let us beat them on the edge. It was something we knew they did …

“But, for some reason, we didn’t kind of move on to some plans that we had, like moving me to [over] the guard and being able to rush inside a little bit. I thought that could have been a good option.”

Asked specifically about Bosa’s comments, Staley explained that the Chargers didn’t make the move in part because they didn’t have enough third-and-long situations to exploit.

He also said they were trying to protect their reserve cornerbacks after losing starters Michael Davis (hamstring) and Asante Samuel Jr. (concussion protocol) to injuries.

Shifting Bosa inside would have meant using a five-man rush plan that “would isolate your corners a little bit more,” Staley said. “I felt like we did a good job of managing that situation throughout the game when those corners went down.”

On the other side of the line of scrimmage, the Chargers had significant issues trying to protect Herbert. He was sacked three times and, according to Pro Football Focus, pressured 17 times.

Eight of those pressures were allowed by right tackle Storm Norton, who has been filling in for the injured Bryan Bulaga. Norton is the 76th-ranked tackle out of 79 league-wide, according to PFF.

“The right side of our protection needed to be better,” Staley said. He noted that Norton also received help throughout the game from running backs and tight ends. “It’s a team operation,” Staley said.

As of Monday, he said there was no plan to replace Norton or right guard Michael Schofield, who is filling in for Oday Aboushi. Aboushi will miss the rest of the season because of a knee injury.

“For now,” Staley said, “we’re definitely going to stick with those two guys.”


Staley had no updates on the health of Davis, Samuel or running back Justin Jackson (quadriceps). He said the Chargers expect to know more when they return to practice Wednesday.