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New Orleans Saints pass defense to be tested by Chargers rookie quarterback

Justin Herbert has 931 passing yards, 5 TDs in three games

**PJ Williams:** Victory Monday mood!!
**PJ Williams:** Victory Monday mood!!

Before we plunge headfirst into the Justin-Herbert-is-a-rookie-quarterback pool, let's acknowledge a couple of things.

First, he's a talented rookie quarterback, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 draft, who has passed for 931 yards and five touchdowns, with three interceptions, and completed 72 percent of his passes in just three starts.

Second, the first point bears repeating: He's a really talented rookie quarterback for the Chargers (1-3), who will play the New Orleans Saints (2-2) on Monday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. With a victory, the Saints can lift into a first-place tie in the NFC South Division, which they've won the previous three years.

Herbert's 931 passing yards are second-most through a rookie quarterback's first three games since 1970. Cam Newton had 1,012 yards in 2011.

"He has very good arm talent," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. "He can throw off body from some funny body positions. He made some big plays last week (in a 38-31 loss to Tampa Bay). I've been impressed.

"He's tall (6 feet 6), has a real good arm, we obviously remember him through the draft process. Quickly identifying some of the things that he's doing well and finding ways to try to neutralize those things, but I think he's played real well."

Herbert didn't start the season opener, then was a surprise starter against Kansas City, the reigning Super Bowl champion, in Week 2 when Tyrod Taylor suffered a punctured lung and rib injury on game day, after complications from an injection.

Herbert responded by completing 22 of 33 passes for 311 yards and a touchdown, with an interception, and a rushing touchdown in the 23-20 loss. In the next two games, both losses, he completed 71 and 80 percent of his passes, for 620 yards and four touchdowns, with two interceptions.

Chargers Coach Anthony Lynn named him the starter last week, regardless of Taylor's recovery.

"He got thrown in the fire," Lynn said. "I thought he handled the situation well and I want to see more of him. It's not going to be a situation where he's looking over his shoulder. He's our starting quarterback. He makes a bad play, he has a bad game, he's our quarterback.

"I like the way he's managed the huddle. I like the way his teammates have responded to him. He is a leader in his own way. It's the total package for me. It wasn't just the big arm in the games. It's the total package."

Even with limited film, the Saints see the package.

"We know to come at a young guy we've definitely got to send some pressure and make sure we show him some different looks and just really see what he's about," defensive back P.J. Williams said. "We see he has a big arm and has made some good throws in the time he's in, and definitely getting comfortable in that system. So, definitely looking at a challenge."

"I think it's not the file so much as the team, the scheme and how he's fitting immediately into it," Payton said. "I think you have to look at what the strengths (are), what he did well in college, was he a guy that turned it over, was he a guy that protected the ball. But I think you're going to study more closely the system. Obviously, it'll be a little bit uniquely different than when Tyrod's (Taylor) in there and you cover all those things. But you really have to defend what you're seeing on tape."

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