Jon Gruden: Justin Herbert is really something to watch

The Raiders and Chargers will meet for the first time this season on Monday, and Las Vegas head coach Jon Gruden is well aware that his defense needs to be at its best.

Los Angeles quarterback Justin Herbert turned in an excellent performance last week against Kansas City, throwing for 281 yards with four touchdowns in the 30-24 victory. But after he set several rookie passing records en route to winning Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2020, not much Herbert does on the field is too surprising.

“The quarterback’s a great player,” Gruden said in his Thursday press conference. “He’s really something else to watch. He can throw, he can run. He’s smart. He makes good decisions. And they have a creative scheme. So it’ll be a challenge for us, no doubt — a big-time challenge.”

Beyond Herbert’s throwing ability, Gruden said the Raiders have to be ready for the quarterback to run. That means plugging up the rush lanes and keeping him in the pocket. Herbert’s picked up four first downs with his legs so far in 2021.

“It’s hard to just unleash the rush on this guy because they allow him to scramble — and he will scramble, and he will hurt you bad,” Gruden said. “So if you don’t protect the pocket, you have a lot of coverage down the field — he has [Mike] Williams and Keenan [Allen] and all their weapons — this guy will put the ball down and he’ll really hurt you bad running. We got hurt last week on some scramble plays, so we’ve got to really be careful with our rush. We’ve got to do a great job of containing him first, getting to him second, and getting him on the ground, third, which is not easy to do. This is a big, strong, young, tough, quarterback.”

The Raiders and Chargers split their two matchups last year, with the road team winning in each contest. But if Las Vegas’ improved defense can get after Herbert like it’s done with other quarterbacks this year, the Raiders could be on their way to a 4-0 start.