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    Chargers hoping for best-case scenario for Justin Herbert vs. Cowboys
    • October 15, 2023

    If all goes as planned, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert will wear minimal protection on his fractured left middle finger. Perhaps he’ll wear the same white glove he wore throughout the week while preparing to face the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football at SoFi Stadium.

    Maybe he’ll be able to shift under center and take snaps from Will Clapp instead of lining up strictly in shotgun formation. Maybe the game plan won’t change in any meaningful way, and he and the Chargers will stick to their strengths, which include scrambling from pressure now and again.

    “We’re going to see between now and the game, but he had a good week of practice,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said Saturday when asked if he was confident it would be business as usual for Herbert on Monday against the Cowboys, including taking snaps while under center.

    “No,” Staley said when asked if Herbert would be restricted in any way.

    Last year, the Chargers said similar things after Herbert fractured his rib cartilage during a loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Clearly, all was not going as planned as Herbert wasn’t as fluid and efficient with his throws for several weeks after he was hurt Sept. 15, 2022.

    Herbert ran with the ball only in desperation to avoid defensive pressure.

    Later in the season, it became obvious he was healthy again. His delivery was easy, more natural. He ran more often and, occasionally, it seemed to be a designed play. He even began to be effective on quarterback sneaks on third- and fourth-down situations in short yardage.

    It might be different this time, and in a good way.

    For starters, his damaged finger is on his non-throwing hand. It might impact his reception of the snap and his grip while throwing the ball, but then again, it might not. No question, it was difficult to notice any change in his accuracy during the portions of practices that reporters were allowed to watch last week.

    Herbert was on target with his throws.

    In fact, he didn’t miss a snap after he fractured his finger on the face mask of a Las Vegas Raiders player after throwing a third-quarter interception Oct. 1, his first of the season. When the Chargers regained possession in the fourth quarter, he re-entered the game and led them to a 24-17 victory.

    “I don’t think so,” Herbert said when asked if he would be forced to make adjustments because of his finger. “I think the game two weeks ago, we were able to kind of get back into it. Whether I was running the ball or whether I was throwing the ball, I felt pretty comfortable out there.

    “I thought the training staff did a great job preparing us and taking care of us. I felt safe going back out there. I think there’s so much going on during the game that you’re probably not going to be worrying about it too much. I think you’re just going to be worried about not getting tackled or not taking those hits.

    “Whether it’s a scramble, it’s about being safe and getting down. That’s in the back of your mind.”

    No question, the Chargers (2-2) need Herbert to be at his proficient best against the Cowboys (3-2). After a bye week and an additional week of rest, recovery and preparation, the Chargers need a third consecutive victory to move above .500, and at least appear to be in pursuit of the AFC West-leading Chiefs (5-1).

    The Chargers lost wide receiver Mike Williams to a season-ending knee injury during their victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3, but they are expected to welcome running back Austin Ekeler back to their lineup Monday after he sat out for three games because of a sprained ankle.

    “He’s a huge part of our offense,” Herbert said of Ekeler.

    It remains to be determined whether Herbert will be 100 percent for Monday’s game.

    “I think that we’re optimistic,” Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said. “I think that you still have the flexibility to play under center. Structurally, I think that we felt pretty comfortable with that ability. We’ll just see how it goes. Certainly, we have the ability to do that. We can play in the shotgun, obviously. Not shutting it off, one way or the other, as of today. We’ll just see how it progresses as the week goes.”

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    ​ Orange County Register