LA Rams quarterback Jared Goff, the number one overall pick in April over Carson Wentz and many others, made his first official start on a rainy Sunday versus the Miami Dolphins. The highly-anticipated debut was already on shaky ground as many questioned how a player taken that high couldn’t sniff the field for 10 weeks as his team fell below .500 largely due to inefficient play at quarterback. By the time the game was over, the shaking only got worse rather than being subsided.
This was an ugly game for both sides offensively, but the Rams drives stalled due to overly conservative play calling and a lack of a downfield attack. LA converted just two of their 13 third down attempts while only gaining 12 total first downs. The Dolphins, on the other hand, didn't score until the fourth quarter, managing two late touchdowns to win the game with under a minute left.
For his part, Goff completed 17-of-31 passes for only 134 yards. Often as former starter Case Keenum would do, Goff didn't manage a score but unlike Keenum didn’t turn the ball over and was sacked just once.
In order to handle the wet conditions and Miami’s superior defensive line, the Rams turned to a quick passing game where all but four of Goff's passes went for under 20 yards. By my tracking, 19 of Goff's other 27 passes traveled less than six yards beyond the line of scrimmage, with the right side being Goff's preferred throwing direction.
In general, Goff made the correct reads, but it was his accuracy that held LA back as he kept missing his receivers. (For once, maybe it wasn’t Tavon Austin’s fault.)
With 9:44 remaining in the third, Goff is in shotgun on 2nd and 10. Goff recognizes that his running back (30) Todd Gurley has a one-on-one match-up with a linebacker. Since Gurley is running an angle route versus (42) Spencer Paysinger's outside leverage, Goff makes the correct decision to target him.
Goff holds onto the ball way too long throwing with zero anticipation. This allows (97) Jordan Phillips time to penetrate between the left guard and the center forcing Goff to backfoot the pass inaccurately at his target. This causes the ball to sail behind him.
All of this could have been avoided if Goff just threw the pass a second earlier right as Gurley was about to break across the middle of the field..
On the next play, Goff does an excellent job avoiding the pressure from the left edge scrambling back to his right. While on the run, he finds his tight end (88) Lance Kendricks in the flat. Unfortunately, he throws the pass inaccurately: behind and too low for Kendricks to bring it in.
These were two back-to-back negative plays by Goff that forced the Rams to punt in good field position.
While his accuracy was spotty, Goff did a great job avoiding pressure and escaping the pocket. With 2:30 left in the third quarter, Goff recognizes quickly that his offensive line didn’t pick up the interior stunt by (50) Andre Branch, so he scrambles through the offensive line for a short pickup.
Although this scramble didn’t pick up the first down, it kept LA within field goal range, allowing Greg Zuerlein to make a 46-yard kick for the 10-0 lead.
If there wasn't immediate pressure, there is a very good chance Goff would have seen the defensive back opposite of (18) Kenny Britt at the bottom of the screen slip in coverage. This would have been a walk-in touchdown for Britt, but the pressure forces Goff to react.
Even when Goff made a good play, like on this excellent 10-yard scramble below, it was called back for an idiotic penalty by left tackle (73) Greg Robinson. Watch closely as he performs an illegal block in the back on (47) Kiko Alonso. If I were Goff, I would have been furious since Alonso was not even in range to make a play anyways.
While the pressure and the playcalling were definitely a large reason why the offense struggled, Goff did not take advantage of opportunities when he had a chance.
For instance, the Dolphins sent a three-man rush while dropping eight in coverage on this play. Goff has plenty of time in the pocket to go through his reads, scan the field, and extend the play, but he panics dumping the ball to his checkdown in the flat for a three-yard loss.
Looking at the general themes of the game, Los Angeles desperately needs better wide receivers. (Dang it, Tavon Austin!) They struggled to gain separation against the Miami’s defensive backs. In this play, not a single one of the receivers get off the line cleanly. Goff trusted that (83) Brian Quick would beat his defender inside, but his release off the line of scrimmage is awful, while Goff’s pass was off-target as well.
With over $42 million in cap space in 2017, a player like Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey would be very beneficial to the team and could give Goff a legitimate receiver. Austin is great for gadget plays and as a slot receiver, but four years in the NFL he hasn't broken 500 yards receiving in any season after being drafted eighth overall in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Due to the Rams' trade with the Tennessee Titans to land Goff, they won't pick until the second round in the draft. It's possible that Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams or Courtland Sutton from Southern Methodist University could last until then. Either of them could give LA a legitimate threat on the outside for Goff to develop with.
After losing to the Rams in Week 2, the Seattle Seahawks won't face them again until Week 15. That battle was a purely defensive one but things could be very different in the rematch; With Seattle's revived offense, the Seahawks have a much better chance the second time around for the victory even though LA has won four of the last five meetings in the series.
Will this next one feature Russell Wilson vs Goff, and will he be able to improve his accuracy and allow Jeff Fisher to open the playbook for him? We’ll soon find out.