Justin Herbert vs. Trevor Lawrence: Comparing the stats of young Chargers and Jaguars QBs

By | January 14, 2023

Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence may not be the biggest stars facing off in Wild Card Weekend, but they just might be the most compelling.

Herbert, the Chargers’ 24-year-old No. 6 overall pick from 2020 will be taking on Lawrence, the Jaguars’ 23-year-old 2021 first overall selection. However, the vibe surrounding both clubs is very different. For the Chargers, they feel the clock ticking on Herbert’s rookie pay-scale contract. The Jaguars, meanwhile, have the feeling of a team ahead of schedule after Lawrence’s rookie year, which was fraught with tension thanks to Urban Meyer’s firing before he finished his first season.

Adding to the intensity of the matchup is that it pits the sure thing Lawrence against the somewhat surprising Herbert. The Chargers QB is far from a Cinderella story — he had a top-10 grade coming out of Oregon — but he had more questions around his game than Lawrence, who was touted as the biggest No. 1 overall slam dunk since Andrew Luck.

Both quarterbacks have turned in impressive years, both throwing for more than 4,000 yards and exactly 25 touchdowns. In fact, their stats are remarkably similar. They finished with their teams a game apart, as the Jaguars finished 9-8 and the Chargers were 10-7. But the equalizer is the Jaguars winning their division, giving them home-field advantage in the matchup.

What both of these teams have done so far is impressive, but this game feels particularly big for the Chargers. While Doug Pederson is fully secure in Jacksonville, the seat around Brandon Staley remains warm for the Chargers. The way Pederson has handled Lawrence is part of that security, whereas Staley’s background as a defensive coach makes him — for lack of a better word — more expendable in the modern NFL.

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Here’s a comparison of how Lawrence and Herbert have fared this year, and how that could translate on Saturday.

Justin Herbert vs. Trevor Lawrence stats

It’s been an impressive year for both Herbert and Lawrence. Their stats are fairly similar, with Herbert outpacing Lawrence in touchdowns but also throwing a few more picks.

The Chargers, however, are significantly better against the pass, so the matchup could ultimately favor Herbert.

Justin Herbert 10-7 477/699 68.2% 4,739 25 10 93.2
Trevor Lawrence 9-8 387/584 66.3% 4,113 25 8 95.2

To reiterate: They’re strikingly similar in many ways. What sticks out is the disparity in attempts. The Chargers offense really runs through the passing game, whereas the Jaguars seek a bit more of a balance.

Another aspect worth exploring is how Herbert performs on the road vs. Lawrence at home, as that will also factor in this weekend.

Justin Herbert (Road) 5-4 245/361 67.9% 2,460 14 4 95.3
Trevor Lawrence (Home) 5-3 191/293 65.2% 2,050 12 5 92.1

Both quarterbacks stack up similarly even with an extra game. Pace-wise, Herbert still exceeds Lawrence by a hair, but their stats remain extremely comparable.

Chargers vs. Jaguars pass defense comparisons

To get the full picture, we also need to look at these two defenses. The Chargers’ pass defense is significantly better than the Jaguars’ so far this season, which could also factor in.

Team YDS Allowed (NFL Rank) TDs Allowed INTs Sacks
Chargers 3,406 (7) 24 14 40
Jaguars 4,055 (28) 25 14 35

While these teams differ greatly in yards allowed, in other stats they’re fairly similar. Neither quarterback gets an overly clear edge here, although Herbert’s impressive counting stats definitely favor the Chargers in this matchup.

Chargers vs. Jaguars previous matchup

Finally, we have to look at how these two fared the last time they played, way back in Week 3 in September.

This was the week the Jaguars hype train started to pull out of the station, as the Jaguars throttled the Chargers 38-10 to move to 2-1 on the year behind a masterclass performance from Lawrence.

Although a lot has changed in the months since, we can’t discount recent history.

Justin Herbert 25/45 297 1 1 74.0
Trevor Lawrence 28/39 262 3 0 115.5

That was among Lawrence’s highest-rated games on the season — not to mention one of Herbert’s lowest — so it could be easy to dismiss as an outlier. Regardless, it should be heartening to Jaguars fans heading into this game.

Chargers vs. Jaguars receivers comparison

Both of these quarterbacks run deep at wide receiver, with free agency ruling the day for the Jaguars and familiarity helping the Chargers along. The much-maligned contract for Christian Kirk paid dividends — he’ll be the only 1,000-yard receiver in this game — whereas the Chargers have dealt with injuries all season (Mike Williams had 895 yards in just 13 games).

After Kirk, the Jaguars’ top options include fellow 2022 signing Zay Jones, tight end Evan Engram (another new signing), and wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr.

Following Williams, the Chargers’ best targets have been Joshua Palmer, Keenan Allen, and running back Austin Ekeler.

Jaguars wide receivers

Christian Kirk 84 133 63% 1,108 8
Zay Jones 82 121 68% 823 5
Evan Engram 73 98 74% 766 4
Marvin Jones Jr. 46 81 57% 529 3
Travis Etienne Jr. 35 45 78% 316 0

Chargers wide receivers

Mike Williams 63 93 68% 895 4
Joshua Palmer 72 107 67% 769 3
Keenan Allen 66 89 74% 752 4
Austin Ekeler 107 127 84% 722 5
Gerald Everett 58 87 66% 55 4

Lawrence works in a slightly more traditional format, having three receivers, a strong receiving tight end, and a running back as a supplement. Herbert, meanwhile, also has a top trio, but his running back effectively acts as another receiver in Ekeler whereas Everett is closer to a supplementary piece.

In other words, the Chargers run deeper, but Lawrence has a lot of faith in his top tandem, as the numbers bear out.

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Bottom line

This is far from a legacy-defining game for either of these QBs. They’ll both be around for a very long time, and their teams seem to be heading in the right direction.

With that being said, it’s a huge first step for them both. Neither has played in a playoff game before, and to win a postseason game at 24 in Herbert’s case and 23 in Lawrence’s is significant, particularly with the roster construction around them.

The best part about this matchup is that neither of these two players has a clear advantage over the other. They’re comparable coming from relatively even teams, and that usually guarantees a fun matchup.

Both of these two are viewed as quarterbacks of the NFL’s future. But one of them will take a step toward being a quarterback of the NFL’s present.