How No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff played in first preseason game
Jared Goff’s first NFL game action came on a sunny Southern California day in front of a huge Coliseum crowd. However, the first overall pick had to wait his turn before seeing the field; Goff isn’t being handed the starting quarterback job in Los Angeles, and he began the preseason opener against the Cowboys as the backup to Case Keenum. Goff came into the game with just under 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Rough start resulting in pass defense, interception
Goff’s first play was a run-pass option that looked similar to some of the plays he ran at Cal, and he handed the ball off. Things then got off to a rocky start, as his first pass attempt was a crossing route to Pharaoh Cooper (South Carolina), but the throw was knocked down by the defensive back. On his second pass attempt, Goff showed the same willingness to stand in the pocket and take a hit that he did in college, ultimately knocked sideways while throwing the ball, which caused the pass to float and be intercepted by the Cowboys. A pass defensed and an interception in his first two NFL preseason passes is not exactly the start that Goff—or the Rams—wanted.
Connection with fellow rookie Tyler Higbee evident
Goff’s second drive began with a hitch route on target, but went through the hands of rookie wide receiver Michael Thomas (Southern Miss). On 2nd-and-10, Goff completed a hitch to fellow rookie tight end Tyler Higbee (Western Kentucky) for 7 yards. On third-and-three in shotgun, Goff spotted a blitz and changed the protection, throwing a hitch route for a first down to Higbee, who was split wide and facing man coverage against Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox.
In the next series, on second-and-one, Goff threw a check-down to the running back to pick up the first down, but then something strange happened. With the clock running—a fantastic opportunity to see Goff operate a hurry-up two-minute drill—the Rams became incredibly conservative in their offensive pace, huddled up, and ran the ball on 1st-and-10. On second-and-seven, Goff threw a hitch to Higbee, who was once again split wide—and once again beat Wilcox and forced a missed tackle to pick up a first down.
The Rams then went back to the pass on 1st-and-10, as Goff threw a go-route to Brian Quick deep down the right sideline, but put too much air under it and it landed out of bounds. On 2nd-and-10 Goff, tried to fit a post route to Pharaoh Cooper between two deep safeties, but Wilcox broke on the pass and hit Cooper, dislodging the ball. On 3rd-and-10, the Rams had difficulty picking up a stunt, and Goff was sacked to end the drive.
Will LA move Goff into starting role soon?
Goff was supposed to keep playing into the third quarter, but it appeared the Rams’ coaching staff had a change of heart, leaving the first-rounder with only two drives on the day. It was a rough start for Goff overall, as he was outperformed by the other rookie quarterback in the game, Dallas’ Dak Prescott (Mississippi State). Goff could have used a bit more support from his offensive line, as they surrendered a QB hit in his first series and a sack in his second, both of which led to drive-ending plays. The bright spots in his performance where his velocity, ball placement, and willingness to attack downfield.
Goff will continue to grow, but will also need the reps to do it. The big question, then, is when will the Rams move him up the depth chart and into the starting role? There are two sides to this debate; on one, it might be better in the short-term for a rookie quarterback to sit for awhile and learn. On the other side, it’s arguably best to learn while doing in the preseason, and Goff started at Cal as a skinny true freshman who got knocked around a lot on a poor team, so he has already shown that he can take his lumps while learning on the job. Furthermore, the longer Goff remains on the second-team during camp, the longer he will be throwing to—and building a rapport with—second-team wide receivers, and not the starters.
One thing that was obvious during Saturday night’s game is that Goff and Higbee are forming a connection, and that Higbee is also adding an element to the Rams’ offense as a tight end who can split out wide and make drive-extending catches. Hopefully we get to see a bit more of Goff next week.