Focus on Chargers QB Justin Herbert as Sunday’s game draws closer

COSTA MESA — Justin Herbert Watch, Day 2.

Herbert warmed up with fellow quarterbacks Chase Daniel and Easton Stick, tossing a few easy passes to start Thursday’s practice. He continued throwing during the individual portion of practice, the part reporters were granted access to before they were sent packing.

Herbert didn’t throw during the individual portion of Wednesday’s practice, so Thursday’s action represented a step in the right direction. Officially, his participation was listed as limited for the second day in a row.

It remains to be determined whether Herbert will play Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars at SoFi Stadium, 10 days after he suffered fractured rib cartilage while absorbing a hit after completing a fourth-quarter pass in the Chargers’ loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sept. 15.

Herbert on Thursday looked pretty much as he has usually looked during recent practices, delivering on-target passes with a fluid motion. He didn’t appear to be in discomfort while completing passes that were in the 30- to 40-yard range at their longest, featuring typical routes that his receivers run.

Daniel is likely to start if Herbert can’t play Sunday, with Stick serving as his backup. Daniel has been Herbert’s backup for the Chargers’ first two games and Stick has been inactive for a victory over the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 1 and a loss to the Chiefs in Week 2.

“You have your game plan and there’s a handful of plays that might be Justin-only,” Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said. “But you put a plan together and most of it spans whatever quarterback plays. We’ll be all right. There might be a handful of plays you scratch out if Justin is not playing.

“But we’ll be ready.”

Herbert has thrown for 613 yards, the fifth-most in the NFL to start the season, and completed 72% of his passes (59 of 82) with six touchdowns and one interception. He has thrown three touchdown passes in each of the first two games. His passer rating of 112.5 is the seventh-best in the league.

In other words, there would a huge void if Herbert can’t play.

“Pretty impressive,” Lombardi said of Herbert’s ability to return to the game after his injury to lead a 73-yard scoring drive that cut the Chargers’ deficit to 27-24 with a little more than a minute to play. “You’re certainly concerned, but the three toughest guys I’ve ever been around are (Drew) Brees, (Matthew Stafford) and Justin. It’s pretty impressive that he could do that under those conditions.”

BODY SLAM REACTION

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and his brother, Jason, a Philadelphia Eagles center, have a popular podcast in which they talk about football in blunt (and funny) fashion. Naturally, the topic of Derwin James Jr.’s body slam of Travis in last week’s Chargers-Chiefs game came up on their latest episode.

Jason: “How did it feel when Derwin James body-slammed the (expletive) out of you on national television?”

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Travis (laughing): “Well, it’s not my first time getting power-bombed. But, yeah, no, I turned, I made a cutback and all of a sudden he’s on me like lightning. I mean, he surprised the (expletive) out of me. Lower man always wins in football. When I felt him wrap his arms around my legs, I’m chuckling in my mind. ‘This is not going to end well for me right now.’ I’m going up. What goes up must come down. The body slam was funny, but what was even more comical was the fact that he asked me after the play or after that drive, ‘Bro, you good?’ What a great guy, man. What a great guy.”

Jason: “Solid dude.”

BODY SLAM (PART 2)

James confirmed Thursday that he asked Kelce if he was OK.

“I’m just thinking, ‘Get him on the ground before he gets in the end zone,’” James said of his highlight-reel tackle of Kelce. “I’m not really thinking about how I’m going to tackle him – just what needed to be done. I was more mad that we didn’t get the win. Family and friends texted me (about the play).

“So, it was still cool, though.”

STREAMING RATINGS

The Chargers-Chiefs game drew 13 million viewers to Amazon Prime Video’s first Thursday Night Football game last week in Kansas City, according to figures compiled by Nielsen. The figures also include over-the-air broadcast numbers for viewers in Los Angeles and Kansas City.