Scouting Jets guard Nate Herbig
Over the past few months, we’ve watched Jets rookies. We now turn to examine some recent veteran additions, starting today with an in-depth look at former Eagles guard Nate Herbig.
Herbig, 23, weighs 6’4″ and 334 pounds and started 17 games in his first three NFL seasons, including five last season. He spent his first three years with the Eagles after being selected as undrafted free agent.
Herbig was a three-star prospect out of high school and ended up attending Stanford where he made six starts in his freshman season and was named freshman All-American.
He built on that in 2017, when he started all 13 games and was named as a Pac 12 first-team selection. However, in 2018 he was limited to eight starts, he didn’t therefore finished only as the second team.
Herbig chose to enter the NFL Draft after his junior year, but poor combine training damaged his stock and he ended up not being selected despite having already been a midfielder pick. projected tower.
The Eagles signed Herbig as an undrafted free agent and he made the roster as a backup, but only saw action in two season-ending games.
However, in 2020 he capitalized on an injury to Brandon Brooks and started 12 games. Despite his good work, he returned to a rotational role in 2021, starting five games. However, it came as a surprise when the Eagles opted to waive him in May, with the Jets getting him back.
Now let’s take a look at what Herbig brings to the table, broken down into categories.
Herbig lacks length but has a wide body and is taller than the inside linemen the Jets have typically brought in for this system. He reportedly lost 30 pounds (from 355 to 325) after the 2020 season, but he’s still noticeably bigger than the inside three starters.
As noted, his combined training was really poor. Although he posted a solid 29 reps on the bench press, his 40-yard dash was the slowest of any on the combine (5.41) and his explosiveness and agility numbers were also disappointing.
On his pro day, Herbig opted to stick with those numbers, which, given he wasn’t drafted, may have been a miscalculation on his part.
Herbig has good versatility. He has plenty of experience at both guard positions and also played 49 snaps as a center in regular season action and the majority of the time in preseason. He started a game at right tackle in college and was also used as a tight end.
Herbig is a reliable pass protector with a good conscience and an ability to work well in combination with his teammates. That translated into good pass protection numbers with just three sacks dropped during his NFL career and four at Stanford. In 2020, he didn’t give up a sack or a hit after Week 5 and had one of the league’s best pass blocking efficiency ratings in the entire span.
When it comes to one-on-one blocking, he seems to have a good understanding of his limits and how to use his size to slow down rushers.
One thing he may need to be more consistent with is his pad level when encountering a stampede.
However, he doesn’t tend to get beaten twice with the same move and can push back and control his man in such situations.
With his size, Herbig can be effective at creating lanes in the racing game when he locks onto a block.
Despite his athletic limitations, he can be effective at blocking on the move. However, there are times when his lack of athleticism can be exploited.
He shows a good understanding of his missions and can effectively block at the line and then take off to make a second block.
Among the things he may need to work on to become more consistent is his contact balance when blocking on the move. It can also be sensitive to speed at the point of attack.
Herbig gives the Eagles an efficient big body to run behind in short-range situations. It is difficult to get penetrated against him and he can go up to the second level.
Despite that, the Eagles only had five rushing touchdowns inside the three-yard line in 2020 when Herbig played a lot. They had 16 in 2021 when he played much less.
You might not expect Herbig to be very good at getting out in front of a screen pass, but he showed in college that he can hustle well in those situations.
Here is a piece where he shows a good understanding of what is required of him on a screen pass mission. He first helps seal a defender who could have blown the play, then rushes out in front and makes good contact with the nearest defender, before resetting his angle and returning to block to seal his man.
Herbig is a player who shows good balance and power when he masters his technique. His footwork is solid, with an ability to reset his angle and leverage. However, he has to clean some things. As noted, its pad level and contact balance can be an issue.
The placement of his hands can be inconsistent at times, causing him to lose a leverage advantage if his hands are too far in, although he does show some fighting ability to free his hands in order to reset his stance .
As noted, he has some experience at center, but has struggled at times with the shotgun hit.
Herbig’s on-court discipline has been solid. He had 10 penalties in three years at Stanford and has nine, including five detention penalties, in his NFL career so far. Two of them were expensive, though, as they nullified a touchdown and a big play.
He had four false starts in 2020 but cleaned that up last year and had none in 2021.
Herbig’s only role on special teams at the NFL level has been as a blocker in the placement unit. He made no costly mistakes in this role.
At Stanford, he slammed at length several times on field goals, so it’s possible he could step into that role in an emergency.
You can tell Herbig is a smart player and that’s probably one of the most impressive aspects of watching his movie.
In pass protection, he constantly has his head on a swivel, looking for work and ready to help his linemates. It’s not just when he’s the free man either. You’ll regularly see him team up with an inside lineman, but with an eye on his outside shoulder so he can pass that man down the middle and help out if the edge rusher crashes inside.
In doing so, he has a good understanding of how to use his large frame to slow down the rush. Herbig coming out of a double team to put his shoulder in the way of an inside move from an edge rusher so his quarterback has a clean line of sight instead of having to rush a throw is not the kind of play that will show up in all advanced metrics, but it can make a big difference to an offense.
He was also part of a well-trained unit that was good at picking up stunts, with Herbig himself having a good understanding of his missions and rarely showing confusion or panic.
Although he’s generally good in these situations, he was involved in a failed mission in his first NFL start.
As noted, he also exhibits a good conscience in the running game, often pulling out of his main mission to do another block and showing a good understanding of angles.
At Stanford, Herbig received honorable mention twice as a Pac-12 all-academic selection.
Herbig is considered a hard worker with a good character and attitude. It’s telling that after his breakthrough in the 2020 season, he told the media that the offensive line coach was constantly criticizing him and he was aware he wasn’t playing well enough.
So, instead of resting on his laurels, he lost a lot of weight and worked really hard to try to improve in 2021, even if it didn’t lead to as much playing time.
Herbig has had some injury issues over the years. He missed several games in his final season at Stanford due to undisclosed injuries.
In 2021, he missed some time with a knee injury and then was inactive with an ankle injury during the playoffs.
The 2020 season saw him start the first eight games but then returned to the bench for four weeks, despite only being inactive once, seemingly as a healthy scratch. This happened after he suffered a finger injury, so the team initially kept him on the ER list, but started someone else. He later regained his health but was made inactive because they wanted to stay with the same line-up. However, he soon found his job and started the last four games.
Herbig’s lack of elite athleticism means he’s not necessarily an ideal candidate for the Jets’ system, although the team may feel he’s smart enough to pull it off despite that. . There are similarities between the current system and that of the Eagles.
At Stanford, they mostly use gap/power patterns in the running game, including their signature pin-and-pull game, but the Eagles use more zone patterns than man, so Herbig will know both well. .
He has multiple ties to the current Jets organization. General manager Joe Douglas was still working for the Eagles when he was originally signed as an undrafted free agent and current Jets defensive backs coach Marquand Manuel was on the Eagles coaching staff.
He was also a teammate of several current Jets: Elijah Riley, Ross Pierschbacher, Joe Flacco, Vinny Curry and Will Parks. Additionally, he was a teammate of Solomon Thomas at Stanford.
It was an under-the-radar move for the Jets that added valuable offensive line depth in the form of a player who has recent starting experience and has done well when called. He may also have untapped potential as he is only 23 years old.
Herbig’s ability to play at center is valuable, although it’s not his primary position, so Dan Feeney will likely retain the role as Connor McGovern’s primary backup. However, Herbig deserves to be considered the top guard on the bench and if called upon to start, the Jets can expect him to acquit himself well.