Los Angeles Rams 90-Man Roster Preview: Quarterback Jared Goff

by Jake Ellenbogen
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For the first time in what feels like forever, the Los Angeles Rams have found stability at the quarterback position with Jared Goff. Last week, finished up the running backs portion of our 90-man roster preview and now we move to the quarterback position, starting with the head of the offense.

The California Bear product has had one of the more interesting early career stories in recent memory, and the question unlike others in this series is not about if he will make the roster,m but how good will he be in 2019?

2018 Season 

This was a redemption year for the Rams and Jared Goff. The team had just come off a difficult home playoff loss against the Atlanta Falcons in a game in which Goff arguably outplayed former MVP Matt Ryan in his first postseason game.

The Rams started the year on an eight-win streak to start the season. After two solid performances against the Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals, Goff got his first true test in Week 3 which saw the anticipated “Battle for LA” game. Goff outdueled RIvers, throwing for 354 yards for a second straight week as the Rams came out on top.

To finish off the first quarter of the season, Goff and the Rams headed into Week 4 primetime, playing up against the new and supposedly improved Kirk Cousins-led Minnesota Vikings. In a game that lacked defense, Goff pitched a perfect game, finishing with a perfect 158.3 passer rating to go with 450 yards and five touchdowns against the same Mike-Zimmer coached defense that toyed with him a season ago.

The real test, however, awaited for Goff in a three-straight road stand which would not only test just the Rams passer but the rest of the young team.

That stretch began with Goff leading the Rams in a nail-biter, 33-31, victory in Seattle. Goff threw his fourth straight 300-yard game but threw more interceptions than touchdowns for the first time.

In the first seven weeks of the season, Goff had out-dueled Phillip Rivers, Kirk Cousins, and Russell Wilson. In Week 8 he would add Aaron Rodgers to that list. In a battle against former California quarterbacks, Goff, despite not looking like his earlier self, finished with three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Rams and Goff finished the first half of the season with a perfect 8-0 record, putting them on a ridiculous pace.

In Week 9, the Rams stumbled for the first time all year. Goff went toe-to-toe against Drew Brees in the Superdome, but came up short, falling 45-35 on the road. Goff threw for 391 yards and brought the Rams back from a 35-14 deficit, but was unable to complete the comeback.

While Goff had proven himself throughout the first half of the season, it was Week 10 against a hot Kansas City Chiefs team in which he may have been the most impressive.  Goff led the Rams to a, 54-51, win in what might have been the greatest regular season of all-time. With under two minutes left and trailing, 51-47, Goff hit tight end Gerald Everett in stride to score the go-ahead touchdown.

The bye week was approaching with a 10-1 Rams record, but Goff had taken a nasty hit from Allen Bailey and Dee Ford that he fought through in the Chiefs game and there’s a good chance that hurt Goff’s play the rest of the way.

What would ensue after the bye would be Goff’s worst three-game stretch of the season. The Rams came out flat in Detroit but ended up having plenty of help from the defense, in a 30-16 win. Goff was less than sharp as he nearly threw back-to-back pick sixes, but Donald and the defense were able to secure the win.

The next week the Rams would head to freezing Chicago to play the red hot Bears on a flexed nationally televised game that would see Goff and the Rams crumble under the immense pressure of home-field advantage. Goff had arguably his worst game, throwing a career-high four interceptions in the 15-6 loss.

Patiently waiting for vengeance the next week against the Nick Foles-led Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football, the Rams came out flat once again. Goff threw over 330 yards but did not put up a touchdown as the Rams fell short at home for the second-straight season to Philadelphia, 30-23.

Despite a tough three-game stretch, the Rams seem to find their groove against the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers. Goff failed to throw for more than 250 yards in either game but tallied five touchdown passes to zero interceptions.

The Rams would head to the playoffs with a first-round bye and a future date with the Dallas Cowboys.

Goff, as mentioned before, did not appear to be the same quarterback he was before the hit in the Chiefs game. The Rams never mentioned any injury, and it’s not to say it was anything Goff complained about, but there was a significant dropoff in his passing following that hit.

Following last season’s playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the Rams came out against the Dallas Cowboys with a purpose. Goff only went 15-28 with 186 yards but did enough as the Rams relied on the running game of C.J. Anderson and Todd Gurley who exploded for a combined 238 yards on the ground.

Goff was a much larger part of the offensive attack the following week in what would be a thrilling NFC Championship game against the Saints. The Saints led the Rams by the score of 13-0 heading into the second quarter, but Goff helped gather the Rams and led them on a 14 play field goal drive that lasted 6:50 to get the team on the board.

Not long after that, the Rams quarterback led his team on a touchdown drive to make it a three-point game before halftime. The trip included a deep pass from Goff to Brandin Cooks that put the Rams inside the 10-yard line with less than 30-seconds left.

Goff matched Bress throw-for-throw in the second half. Trailing, 20-17, Goff somehow led the Rams offense 85 yards on nine plays to tie the game on a field goal. Down by three again, The Rams quarterback led the team on a 45-yard drive to set up a Greg Zuerlein‘s field goal, sending the game to overtime.

The most forgotten play of this game would end up being the most important quiet play of the season for the Rams. At mid-field, Goff received a blitz and was instantly wrapped up by All-Pro defensive end, Cameron Jordan. He would somehow get the ball off as he was being tossed to the ground and deliver a strike to Tyler Higbee. It ended up resulting in only six yards, but those six yards would be enough on 2nd and 13 to stay in field goal range and set up Zuerlein for a 57-yard game-winning field goal to send the Rams to the Super Bowl.

Goff’s Super Bowl appearance was one to forget. It was a defensive battle in the Super Bowl, but Goff missed plenty of throws and also hit others. It came down to the experience or the lack thereof on the Rams offense. Bill Belichick and the Patriots dialed up pressure and plenty disguises in their coverages which mimicked that of the Bears who were responsible for Goff’s worst career game.

On the second-to-last drive, Goff led the Rams downfield to the New England 27-yard line and put a pass right on the money for receiver Brandin Cooks to tie up the game. Unfortunately, a drop by Cooks led to the next play which was a Goff interception to end the Rams hopes of winning Super Bowl LIII.

Despite the disappointing showing from one of the league’s most potent offenses led by Goff, it’s important to look at the fact the Rams passer is only 24-years old and has virtually improved leaps and bounds in every season he’s played in. This brings us to this upcoming year in which the mission has gone from “Goff will fix this” in 2016, to “Goff will win his first playoff game next year” in 2017 to now “Goff will get over the Super Bowl hump.” That’s the plan laid out for Goff and the Rams as we head into the 2019 season.

Roster Battle

Jared Goff is the Rams’ starting quarterback plain and simple. The Rams did bring in Blake Bortles but make no mistake, this is Jared Goff’s car, and he’ll be the one driving it.

Three Plays On Tape

Now as you have already read, I do believe Jared Goff was banged up in this game, which makes this play above that much more unbelievable. With under two minutes left and the Chiefs up, 51-47, the Rams are trying to do something that no team in the history of the game has ever done – win a game scoring 50-plus points while your opponent also scores 50-plus points in the same game.

Goff on a 1st-and-10 gets the green light from Sean McVay to go for the home-run play. First off, this is incredibly bold by McVay who was willing to risk giving would-be MVP Patrick Mahomes an opportunity to have the ball last in a shoot out game. However, it didn’t matter, Goff throws an absolute strike to the second-year tight end who ran his streak pattern slightly bending down the sidelines, forcing him to adjust his footing to stay in bounds and curve around the pylon.

It’s one of those season-defining throws for a quarterback that was clearly in the MVP discussion at this point. Another thing to keep in mind for Goff in this game – this was one of the first real games where Gurley wasn’t able to do a lot as he also was banged up after an awkward hit near the sidelines from linebacker Dorian O’Daniel. You can’t coach this level of poise and accuracy, which is why Goff went number one overall in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Okay so this is two plays on tap, and it kind of coincides with what I said about Goff being banged up. He was hitting these throws with ease earlier in the year. You can factor in the pressure and all of that, but this isn’t about Goff being clutch or not clutch. If you disagree look above on the first play which displays the clutch gene fairly easily.

These two clips explain my biggest issue with Goff last year and why he was just not the same after the Chiefs game. He had no problem throwing the above pass to Everett for a game-winning touchdown, but an injury to a throwing hand or something along those lines could affect your throwing at times which is why it was never brought up.

This hit in the same game also didn’t help Goff’s potential injury either.

The last play we will take a look at the best throw of Jared Goff’s career and the arguably the best throw of the season by any quarterback

This placement is just otherworldly. It’s not normal to be able to throw a ball with this much perfection while off platform. Goff motions Gurley on the fake end-around out of the receiver spot. The Rams quarterback is already about five yards behind the line of scrimmage and in the shotgun. Goff then bails and rolls out of the pocket with his eyes on the prize in a blanketed Cooper Kupp near the corner of the end zone.

The decision making here is slightly odd, but why penalize Goff for knowing his abilities? Goff throws this ball on the run from ten yards behind the line of scrimmage. Despite two Viking defensive backs being all over Kupp, he is able to come down with a perfect catch and the go-ahead touchdown.

This throw is just absolutely perfect. Goff released the ball and placed it not only where only Kupp could bring it down, but where he could bring it down and establish possession. Throws like this are why there is a serious flaw with the ‘Goff is a system quarterback’ narrative. There aren’t ten quarterbacks in the league that can make this throw consistently, but Goff sure can.

Biggest Question

How much better can Goff get as we move forward into the 2019 season? With his handy and helpful running back Todd Gurley coming off plenty of lingering injuries from last season, the Rams did go out and bring back Malcolm Brown as well as draft Darrell Henderson.

The same weapons will be at Goff’s disposal with a new addition in Henderson and  Kupp will be returning from injury as well.

I would make the argument that a more significant question would be: can the new offensive line filled in with two new starters protect Goff in any form as they did consistently last season?

A lot of this year will hinder on the protection. We have seen Goff with zero protection and no time to throw, and it’s not pretty. However, it’s also not pretty for any quarterback. Aside from that, Goff’s questions are starting to be answered. Goff validity as a franchise quarterback is no longer a question after he manned the Los Angeles Rams to a Super Bowl just two years after the same organization went 4-12.

2019 Outlook

I fully expect Goff, barring injury, to finish as a top-five quarterback in 2019. However, it is entirely possible that Goff can win or finish runner-up in the MVP voting. The biggest thing aside from the weapons and protection is quite simply the coaching and systematic consistency.

We saw how well Sam Bradford performed for the Rams as a former number one overall pick without a consistent coaching staff and a consistent offensive system. Goff is now going into year three under Sean McVay, who by all means is the offensive guru of the NFL.

As Goff gets more acclimated to a system, it becomes less about learning and more about mastering or adding new elements and verbiage to improve the already well-oiled machine better.

This season will be Goff’s year four and could end up being the one that finally shuts up the naysayers. We all know Goff doesn’t care about individual accolades. However, it’s all about going back to the Super Bowl and winning the Lombardi. Let’s not forget when he said, “we’ll fix this” and stopped at nothing to “fix it.” Goff is in for a fantastic 2019 if health permits it.

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