COSTA MESA — Chargers tight end Hunter Henry didn’t learn Justin Herbert was playing last week until the rookie quarterback entered the huddle for the first play against the Kansas City Chiefs.
There won’t be any surprises for Herbert’s second career start. On Wednesday, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn named Herbert the starter for Sunday’s Week 3 game against the Carolina Panthers at SoFi Stadium.
Lynn said Tyrod Taylor won’t be 100% healthy this week because of the accidental punctured lung Taylor sustained after a team doctor administered a pain-killing injection to his cracked ribs before kickoff against the Chiefs.
The medical mishap led to Herbert’s impressive debut on short notice.
“Justin Herbert will start at quarterback,” Lynn said. “I’m looking forward to seeing him play with a week of preparation knowing he’s going to be the starter. Easton Stick will back him up. We’re week to week with Tyrod.”
Herbert threw for 311 passing yards with one touchdown and one interception and ran for a touchdown in his unexpected start in a 23-20 overtime loss to the defending Super Bowl champions. The 2020 No. 6 overall pick joined Otto Graham and Cam Newton as the only players ever with 300-plus passing yards and one rushing touchdown in a debut.
“I was excited for him,” nose tackle Linval Joseph said about Herbert. “To be thrown into a game versus that type of team, and the way he delivered, I take my hat off to him. He earned my respect. He’s going to be a very good player.”
Lynn also praised Herbert for his performance, but said the offense wasn’t able to use the full playbook because Herbert didn’t receive many first-team snaps in practices.
“That playbook really shrunk,” Lynn said. “We put him in some really tough situations where he hadn’t practiced certain things. … He didn’t panic. He made some really nice throws in that game. Moved around. Showed he can extend plays.
“He did some things in that game, but he was not fully prepared because he didn’t take all the reps in practice.”
Lynn was criticized for not going for it on 4th-and-1 from his own 34-yard line during overtime versus the Chiefs. Lynn said he favored his defense because it wouldn’t be fair to put Herbert in that situation. The Chiefs won on the following drive with a 58-yard field goal from Harrison Butker.
“It wasn’t fair to put it on him,” Lynn said about the fourth-down situation. “To run plays that he hadn’t ran in practice. I put it on my defense. Whether that was wrong or right, it really don’t matter. That’s how I felt at the time.”
The Chargers won’t have the advantage of surprising the Panthers, but Lynn is looking forward to installing a full playbook with Herbert.
Lynn said he watched film with Herbert at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, which is usually a team day off.
“He’s a hard worker,” Lynn said. “He doesn’t take this lightly. He’s a young professional and he prepares well.”
Right tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee), safety Rayshawn Jenkins (groin) and defensive tackle Justin Jones (shoulder) sustained injuries against the Chiefs. Only two of them practiced Wednesday to begin Week 3.
Bulaga and Jenkins were limited participants while Jones was sidelined.
Defensive back Desmond King (back) and Henry (ankle) were also limited participants. Running back Justin Jackson (quadricep) and linebacker Nick Vigil (groin) didn’t practice.