For 14 years, the Broncos' rivalry with the Chargers never lacked a delightful villain.
Confident, gifted and outspoken — but somehow never vulgar — Philip Rivers was a mainstay in the series during his tenure as San Diego/Los Angeles' starting quarterback from 2006 through 2019.
But after Rivers departed for Indianapolis in free agency, the rivalry will begin a new chapter, now with promising rookie Justin Herbert in his place.
"It's weird," Bradley Chubb said Tuesday. "With him being a NC State guy as well, all you see around the NC State facilities is Philip Rivers in a Chargers jersey. Playing against him the past couple years, I kind of got used to it. Now they've got a new guy back there who presents a lot of challenges for us. He's good with his arm, good with his feet — he's a great young player and I'm excited to go against him this week."
Through five starts, Herbert has thrown 12 touchdowns and only three interceptions while completing 67.4 percent of his passes. That hasn't yet translated to wins, as Los Angeles is 1-4 with him under center so far — though those four losses were to teams with a combined record of 18-9.
His play has earned plenty of notice around the league, including from former NFL quarterback David Carr, who placed Herbert fourth on his ranking of quarterbacks under 25 that he'd build a team around.
"Herbert is as fearless as they come and I love watching him play because of it," Carr wrote. "In just five career starts, the rookie has already shown that he understands where to place the ball, how to throw receivers open and when to get the ball out. He's athletic in the pocket, subtly sliding away from pressure, and is a threat in the run game. He's not going to wow you with his running ability but defenses must account for his ability to take off."
If Herbert continues his strong play and Drew Lock rebounds from a tough stretch since returning from his shoulder injury, perhaps this game could be the start of a new era in this rivalry with each team's star quarterback for years to come.
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Though Lock struggled on Sunday against the Chiefs, his teammates are still standing up for him. On Monday, Justin Simmons told CBS4's Michael Spencer, "I'm still high on Drew Lock. Drew's the man. … I've said it multiple times now, I don't know exactly what 'it' is, but in my opinion he has 'it.'"
COVID-19 precautions are starting to take a toll on preparations for the 2021 season. Organizers of the upcoming East-West Shrine Bowl announced the event has been cancelled. It usually is the first opportunity for college players to showcase their talents in an all-star game after their final season concludes.