Sabo Sessions, Gregg Williams, Justin Herbert
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

New York Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is deeply respectful of rookie Justin Herbert‘s arm which includes his deep game.

Robby Sabo

Throw the bomb! One of the many familiar fan pleads oftentimes gets old, yet it also serves a real purpose in today’s NFL. Throwing the bomb has never worked more flawlessly thanks to modern rules that beat down defensive backs on a play in, play out basis.

Sometimes, old-school defensive minds have a problem adjusting to such a fact. New York Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, for instance, has always enjoyed his unit’s aggressiveness.

With Jamal Adams employed a year ago, Williams’s pass-rushing schemes often involved two defensive backs. Without a legitimate edge rusher in tow, defensive backs flying into the backfield off the edge (and anywhere else) wasn’t just requested, it was required in many cases.


This season has brought change. Without Adams’s services, a softer, much more allowing Jets defense is keeping everything in front of it. The bend-but-don’t-break look has been used more out of necessity and probably to Williams’s dislike in many regards.

Fortunately, it may just match up well with the team’s matchup this weekend.

Rookie Justin Herbert is slinging the ball downfield. His 7.8 yards per attempt mark is good enough for 11th in the league (not including the injured Dak Prescott). Equipped with great options such as Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, the Oregon product demonstrates no fear when looking to take chunks.

Williams has taken notice.

“I’ll tell you this now, he’s like a lot of these other young gunslingers,” Williams told the media on his regularly-scheduled Friday Zoom call. “He’s got a good, strong, deep arm that we’ve got to be very respectful for and he grows week by week by week, too.”

Herbert, 22, is playing as well as any NFL rookie this season. His 2,333 passing yards and 19 touchdowns to just six interceptions have the league on its heels. The kid’s arm strength was highly-touted entering the 2021 NFL draft.

The questions that swirled around this collegiate thrower mainly dealt with many of the same that surfaced for previous Pac-12 throwers looking to make a name for himself in the NFL. Could he effectively make the transition from the college offense to a well-run professional-style system?

So far, so good. Williams believes Anthony Lynn and his staff have done a tremendous job matching the kid’s skills to their new-look offense.

“I think they’ve done a very good job of manufacturing just what I was talking about defensively, manufacturing things for him that he is familiar with offensively and what they do on going around on matching things up to his skill set,” Williams said.

Two weeks ago, Herbert demonstrated his chunk-taking abilities against the Las Vegas Raiders. A second-and-9 situation at the Raiders’ 27-yard line not only showcased Herbert’s arm, but it also featured his pre-snap ability and freedom.

Watch Herbert’s pre-snap actions and his arm strength after climbing the pocket:

The kid notices something pre-snap and changes the play. The result is a play-action with Keenan Allen running an over-route from the tighter stack split (bunch TE).

Although the Raiders started 2-deep, Herbert might have recognized the one-high coverage thanks to the boundary-side safety’s positioning over the bunch look. After the snap, that safety dropped while the field-side safety moved to a one-high look.

All Herbert needed was for Allen to beat the one-high safety to the flag, and that’s exactly what happened against this inverted 2-deep look.

Later in the same game, Herbert pulled off an incredible throw to Mike Williams on a corner route:

The Raiders’ 2-deep pre-snap looked ultimately resulted in a Cover 2. Herbert fitting the ball over the flat-to-curl cornerback and underneath the deep-half safety this easily is an impressive rookie feat.

Mind you, this is also crunch time. Down four points with just 13 seconds to go in regulation, this is as money as it gets at the position.

Herbert’s third career game showed off more of his arm strength, and he did it against the league’s No. 3-ranked defense, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

Todd Bowles starts one-high against the Bolts’ bunch look on third-and-7. They brought seven in total (maybe six and a green dog) and the one-high safety immediately dropped. As long as the Chargers adequately protect Herbert, it’s over.

Herbert found Jalen Guyton against man coverage for an impressive 72-yard score. The kid showed incredible pocket poise with the rush bearing down on him, and he threw the deep ball flawlessly from his back foot.

Complicating matters for the Jets is the fact that the team’s corners will come into Week 11 with plenty of inexperience. Pierre Desir is gone and Brian Poole‘s season is over courtesy of season-ending surgery. The likes of Bryce Hall will need to step it up if the Jets’ goal of a first victory is to come to fruition.

No excuses. The Jets defensive coordinator will hear none the obvious inexperience excuse at such a tough position. It’s next-man-up time and the objective is slowing down Herbert.

“I talked with the head coach this morning and basically exactly what he said to you guys is it,” Williams said. “The big thing was the next man up, getting Bryce (Hall) ready to go. He’s been doing a good job holding that off and how we’ve been able to play that and then all of a sudden now turning it over to Bryce. We felt like (Desir) still had a chance to be a starter someplace and we didn’t hesitate. We gave him an opinion and all that, he’s a good young man.”

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The 0-9 Jets and 2-7 Chargers are scheduled to get things going at 4:05 p.m. ET from Los Angeles this Sunday—the Jets’ first game in L.A. in 27 years. And yes, young Justin Herbert will be there, looking to take chunks from the Jets defense.

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