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La Canfora: Keeping Jared Goff healthy a priority for Rams, who lack QB depth

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  • La Canfora: Keeping Jared Goff healthy a priority for Rams, who lack QB depth

    2018 NFL Training Camps: Keeping Jared Goff healthy a priority for Rams, who lack QB depth
    By Jason La Canfora 12h ago • 7 min read

    OWINGS MILLS, Md. – A year ago at this time, entering their preseason opener, the chore for Rams then-rookie head coach Sean McVay was pretty simple: Get Jared Goff as many reps as humanly possible to immerse him in this offense, rebuild his confidence and make him forget about his shaky rookie season.

    Now, well, the situation is quite different.

    Goff had a strong 2017 season – just the latest young quarterback to blossom under McVay's tutelage and play calling – and he appears at ease in this offense as the Rams have suddenly gone from playoff afterthoughts to potential Super Bowl hopefuls with a reloaded roster and heavy expectations. And it just so happens that one of the few roster spots not teaming with experience and depth is at backup quarterback, where the assembled group of three passers behind Goff have combined for 50 career NFL attempts, one start, and zero touchdowns. It's not exactly teaming with options should Goff miss a few games, and McVay is now charged with protecting Goff through the preseason – where he undoubtedly will end up playing less than last summer – and cultivating something from the group of backups (Sean Mannion, Brandon Allen and Luis Perez) in case of emergency.

    McVay and his staff are going over that mental calculus this week, with their joint practices with Baltimore over at the Ravens' practice facility and the preseason opener at M&T Bank Stadium looming Thursday night. With Goff now established in this offense, the days of him taking expanded reps with the second-string offensive line are probably over, while Mannion (a fourth-year pro who has accounted for all 50 of those NFL pass attempts I mentioned) is now an injury away from trying to prop up a team with Super Bowl aspirations

    "The thing that is tricky, especially with some of the starters is," McVay told me, "when you are talking about a guy like (left tackle) Andrew Whitworth, who is going into year 13, now if you don't play him then how comfortable do you feel with putting Jared out there? So it's a lot of layers to it, to where when you want to rest somebody else then it affects how you operate …

    "I'm really having a tough time – and we've talked about this as a staff – at how do you balance the dynamic between getting those preseason reps, and then, what the risk that potential could come from if something happens. And you can't do that – you can't be scared – but you also want to be smart and mindful of, those couple snaps, does it make a difference in how sharp he can be and can you try to mimic and emulate those game-like situations and limit the risk? And those are things that, I'll be honest, I struggle with and continue to learn. And as you get more experience you maybe have a more clear-cut philosophy."

    Bottom line, I don't think we'll see much of Goff this summer. The Rams starters as a whole will likely be rested for this preseason opener, and Mannion – who threw for 185 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions in his lone NFL start (a loss to San Francisco last season) – will have a chance to gain some confidence this time around. For a team that collected this much talent, I continue to wonder if the Rams might be prompted to acquire a more experienced and proven No. 2 quarterback at some point based on how the preseason goes (one team official didn't exactly rule out that possibility, noting how in the past the backup job here has been manned by guys like Nick Foles and Case Keenum, who went on to great starting success elsewhere).

    "I think he's really taken a lot of steps in the right direction," McVay said of Mannion.

    Rams/Ravens observations

    I cautioned against the anti-Orlando Brown, Jr. tide during the pre-draft season, when much was made of his poor combine results. He was still going to be a Day Two pick and he has done a nice job grabbing an early hold on Baltimore's starting right tackle spot. Even with All Pro guard Marshal Yanda back off the PUP list, and a possible reshuffle in order at some point, Brown has given the coaches plenty to think about and if the rookie keeps this up I believe he starts the season in this spot.

    Aaron Donald's holdout from the Rams remains indefinite. McVay is trying to stay in touch with him but the Rams don't expect to see him for a while. "Our conversations have been good," McVay said.

    Cooper Kupp was more or less unstoppable in Tuesday's practice. The second-year receiver was a go-to guy for Goff and the chemistry was obvious in the 11-on-11 unscripted portion. The Ravens tried lining up slot corners and regular corners and even hybrid linebackers on him but to no avail. In general, he was a matchup problem and with Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks on the outside, and the Rams hopeful for a breakthrough season for tight end Tyler Higbee, Kupp remains in line for a bevy of targets. Goff and he have something special going on.

    The Rams secondary has the makings of being elite. Its size leaps out at you on the practice field, as well as its tenacity and speed. The secondary created turnover after turnover against Baltimore's starting offense on Tuesday, including picking off Joe Flacco several times in the red zone. "Today was a real challenge for us communicating with a little noise (music blared from the speakers during 11-on-11s) and a lot of different looks," said corner Aqib Talib, one of several new parts on that defense. "We got to communicate on the fly, fast, so I think it was like a quiz for us … and we did a helluva job." Toggling between watching two fields, I didn't have a full count of how many interceptions the Rams got on the day, but Talib asserted, "we got like five."

    Questions remain about how what amounts to a group of mercenaries will gel on this defense but Talib said he and corner Marcus Peters are hitting it off well. Both have worn out their welcome in past stops, and the Rams have them here on short-term contracts hoping to find lightning in a bottle. "We good," Talib said. "That's my homie. We good." During a long season, this dynamic could go a long way to determining the team's fate with so many players in L.A. for one year on more-or-less prove-it contracts. "The guys we've added have all been smart, conscientious football players," McVay said of a group that includes Peters, Talib and Ndamukong Suh.

    Ravens rookie tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews are often featured on packages with the starting offense and their size and outside ability provide some matchup problems and new looks. Some of those sets are ripe for running the ball, or allowing for one of the tight ends to keep deep. Hurst made several diving catches and big plays during these two practices and he should be an immediate contributor if he can avoid nagging injuries. Andrews flashed as well. "He's really made a huge jump," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said of Hurst, "both in-line and with his route running."

    Baltimore has been desperate for youngsters to emerge to compliment Terrell Suggs and Matt Judon with the pass rush. A year after barely playing, Timmy Williams is taking big steps in that regard. He was a disruptive force in team drills and someone who will be featured quite a bit in the preseason. A natural edge presence at Alabama, his breakthrough would be a major development for this defense. "He's becoming the player we thought he was going to be when we drafted him," defensive coordinator Don Martindale said of the 2017 third-round pick, who he believes "is going to be a premier pass rusher."

    Keep an eye on the ball when it comes out of rookie quarterback Lamar Jacksons hand. His spiral has consistently had a wobble to it throughout camp – most notable on deeper stuff – and he continues to adjust to the NFL football. "It's still a work in progress," Mornhinweg said.

    There were no real incidents between these teams during two spirited practices in some extreme heat. The past history between Talib and the Ravens' new receiver Michael Crabtree never boiled over despite them being lined up against one another quite a bit, and there was nothing extracurricular save for some brief pushing and shoving and some trash talking.

  • #2
    A veteran back-up must be secured or this team could be in big trouble if Goff goes down. Mannion has shown me nothing in his tenure on the roster, and the other guys are totally unproven. No longer can teams afford to not have a serviceable back-up on their roster.


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    • Nick
      Bonsignore: Here’s why Year 2 should look much better for Rams quarterback Jared Goff
      by Nick
      Bonsignore: Here’s why Year 2 should look much better for Rams quarterback Jared Goff
      By VINCENT BONSIGNORE | | Daily News
      May 25, 2017 at 3:39 pm

      As observations go, it probably falls more into the can’t-be-seen-without-a-microscope category. But the most astute scientists will tell you items unable to be detected by the human eye are sometimes the most critical, so the relatively casual critique Robert Woods made about Jared Goff might foretell something more significant.

      Woods, the Rams’ free agent wide receiver pickup, and Goff, the second-year quarterback on whom so much of their future success depends, have been consistent workout partners almost since the moment Woods signed last March. Woods might be only 25, but the four NFL seasons he has accrued involved five starting quarterbacks. And that’s four too many, given the timing, chemistry and comfort level required for quarterbacks and wide receivers to prosper together.

      The former USC star would like nothing better than to develop a long, monogamous working relationship with Goff over the next few years, although that is largely dependent on Goff fulfilling the promise and potential the Rams envisioned upon drafting him first overall in 2016.

      And as the early stage of their partnership evolves, Woods is on the lookout for evidence to support that conclusion.

      A small sample of which was recently presented

      A week ago, playing against a certain defensive look in practice, Goff misfired on a throw to Woods. The two hashed it out in conversation and conferred about it in the classroom. And when faced with the same defensive package against the same play this week during a Rams’ Organized Team Activity practice, the result was decidedly different.

      “This time he threw a perfect pass,” said Woods, who seemed hardly surprised by the manner in which Goff made the adjustment or the pristine throw he delivered.

      These are traits Woods has already recognized in Goff during their short time together.

      “Work ethic, arm and accuracy,” Woods said, describing Goff. “You see him coming out here, always working, first to answer the question in the meeting rooms. He’s always listening. Always asking questions.”

      That isn’t to suggest Goff will make the leap from the struggling rookie we saw in 2016 to All-Pro in 2017. Or that long-term success is guaranteed for the former Cal star. But given the natural progression from Year 1 to Year 2, the rebuilt infrastructure and support system the Rams have supplied Goff with this offseason and the more certain and confident demeanor he has presented so far during OTAs, there’s compelling reason to believe the 22-year-old will take a positive step forward this year.

      “I think he’s done a nice job just getting better every single day,” said Sean McVay, the young coach with whom the Rams have entrusted...
      -05-25-2017, 04:19 PM
    • MauiRam
      Rams burning question: Can Sean McVay make Jared Goff a poor man's Kirk Cousins?
      by MauiRam
      Cousins is pretty rich, so that wouldn't be the worst thing in the world

      Rookie seasons are rarely memorable for NFL quarterbacks, but Jared Goff's first shot as an NFL signal caller was entirely forgettable. He rode pine until late November, with Rams coach Jeff Fisher stubbornly sticking by Case Keenum. When he finally got the starting job, Goff went 0-7, was a little lucky to complete 50 percent of his passes and threw just five touchdown passes, three of which came in one game against the Saints.

      Fisher was fired midseason and the Rams cleaned house after 2016 ended, all while watching the Titans select a talented wideout with the top-five pick that the Rams handed them as part of last year's Goff deal. The Rams' next hire was a critical one and they went uber young with it, bringing 30-year-old Sean McVay over from Washington.

      (The Rams are back at training camp! Don't MISS anything as they prepare to try and make the playoffs -- take five seconds to Sign up for our Free Rams newsletter now!)

      Make no mistake, McVay's hire is about turning Goff into a legitimate quarterback. McVay's tutelage in Washington turned Kirk Cousins into the ultimate conundrum: a quarterback who plays well enough you have to pay him but not well enough to commit past massive single-year franchise tag deals.

      A lot of what you see with Goff and the Rams from 2016 is a case of Los Angeles putting major reigns on their rookie quarterback and limiting what he can do with a particular play. There are four guys running routes here but only one of them is really in play here. Goff is throwing to Tyler Higbee. via NFL GamePass
      It's not surprising for an offense to put a cap on a rookie early on and for coaches to limit the amount of things a player has to worry about, but Goff was so obviously locked into a single target that he was sometimes throwing before he finished his drop. via NFL GamePass
      Again, there are four routes being run but three of them might as well be decoys. This throw, by the way, resulted in a 19-yard completion and even set up a 24-yard Todd Gurley touchdown run. But let's not get too caught up in results. Everything about the gameplan in Goff's first start -- Week 11 against the Dolphins -- was rudimentary to the nth degree.

      The creativity level was about what you would expect out of the worst offense in the league. The Rams averaged a measly 14 points per game and trailed even the 31st-ranked Jets by a healthy margin in DVOA. On a critical 3rd-and-4 play call against Miami, with the Rams leading 7-0 and 2:32 left in the second quarter, here's what Goff saw at the top of his shotgun drop. via NFL GamePass
      It looks like rush hour between the hash marks. Ndamukong Suh ripping through the offensive line didn't help matters and it resulted in a sack. Pressure was a problem for Goff, who finished the...
      -08-10-2017, 01:22 AM
    • Nick
      Jared Goff shows he's growing into role of Rams quarterback
      by Nick
      Jared Goff shows he's growing into role of Rams quarterback
      8:39 AM ET
      Alden Gonzalez
      ESPN Staff Writer

      THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Jared Goff stepped up in the pocket and fired a bullet, roughly 30 yards down the field, right into the hands of Robert Woods on a post route. Earlier, he hit Nelson Spruce for a long touchdown. And leading up to that impressive throw to Woods, he made crisp, accurate passes to Tyler Higbee and Cooper Kupp as part of a two-minute drill.

      It's only organized team activities, which means players are not in pads and live contact is not permitted, but Goff looked good on Monday.

      Rams rookie coach Sean McVay is nonetheless reserving judgement.

      "Until you’re actually live as a quarterback, that’s when you truly get challenged," McVay said. "You’re having to move with the rush, avoid guys that can really tackle you. That’s always the best evaluator. I think he has done a nice job improving every single day, and that’s what’s going to give us a chance.”

      Goff, with a 22.2 Total QBR in his brief NFL career, began his offseason by receiving instruction from noted quarterback guru Tom House. And ever since the official offseason program began, the 22-year-old has immersed himself in McVay's offense, spending almost every possible waking minute at the Rams' facility. McVay said he has been "very pleased" with what Goff has done "above the neck."

      His teammates have noticed more confidence, more conviction.

      "You can tell, especially just starting with the command of the offense, him being able to take that and control the huddle and get guys lined up, and keep that poise when things aren’t going well and when things are going well," said Higbee, Goff's roommate throughout training camp last year. "He looks good."

      "More confident, more relaxed, more poised in the pocket" is how second-year receiver Mike Thomas compared this year's Goff to last year's Goff. "Letting the game come to him and taking his time, being patient on the field."

      Goff is benefiting from having an entire NFL season under his belt and knowing from the start that he will be the starting quarterback -- but he must perform in order to keep his job.

      McVay wasn't around when the Rams moved up 14 spots to draft Goff No. 1 overall last spring, and thus has no real loyalty to Goff, who struggled mightily over the course of seven rookie starts, all of them losses. If Goff doesn't show signs that he is making significant strides toward at least becoming a reliable starting quarterback for the foreseeable future, McVay probably won't have a hard time turning to his backup, Sean Mannion, a third-round pick in 2015 who hasn't seen much playing time yet.

      McVay often has said he and his staff will "constantly evaluate guys."

      -06-06-2017, 09:16 AM
    • MauiRam
      Why there's hope for Jared Goff in 2017
      by MauiRam
      By Sage Rosenfels

      Sage Rosenfels is a former 12-year NFL quarterback who writes, does radio, and podcasts about the NFL and college football.

      We are less than two weeks removed from one of the most exciting NFL drafts in recent memory. All 32 teams feel they have upgraded their roster with exciting young talent who will make an immediate impact, as well as others who will develop into important pieces in the future.

      The draft is one of the NFL’s best hype machines, as it gives hope to each team - even the Browns - that their future is bright. After the lights are dimmed and the draft stage is deconstructed, it’s time for the players and coaches to get to work.

      Some of the players drafted will be immediate NFL stars, while others will soon be out of the league, even first-rounders. Of all the positions, quarterbacks have been the trickiest players to scout. Quarterbacks taken in the first round are a huge gamble - some have immediate success while others never come close to being worth their high-pick status.

      On occasion, great quarterbacks are afterthoughts who become NFL stars (like Tom Brady and Kurt Warner). Drafting a quarterback high is a huge risk that can change an organization, for better or worse, for years to come.

      Jared Goff is one year removed from being the first overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft. Before and after the selection, he was complimented by nearly every analyst as a future NFL star who would lead the Los Angeles Rams for the next decade.

      A lot has changed in the last year for Goff. The organization fired Jeff Fisher and replaced him with the youngest head coach in NFL history, Sean McVay. Goff’s rookie year was memorable for all of the wrong reasons, as poor play from both him and his team as a whole resulted in the coaching overhaul.

      This is what happens every year in the NFL. Young men who are only a few months removed from playing college football are expected to make huge impacts on struggling franchises, many of which haven’t won consistently for decades. Every year, many of these players don’t live up to the hype, as the honeymoon period of the draft quickly disappears.

      Goff knows this all too well. Every rookie has hopes that they will come into the league and shine immediately. Some, like Dak Prescott, excel right out of the gate by landing in a perfect situation. Others, like Goff, end up on teams that even Brady wouldn’t be able to fix.

      This is why McVay was hired. He and fellow first-year coach Kyle Shanahan are two young minds who view offensive football differently. McVay and Shanahan worked together in Washington and both are responsible for developing Kirk Cousins, who went from a fourth-round draft pick to a $25-million franchise player in just a few seasons.

      Both McVay and Shanahan view offensive football from one angle, the quarterback.
      -05-11-2017, 12:59 AM
    • Nick
      Goff Looking Comfortable, Confident in New Offense
      by Nick
      Goff Looking Comfortable, Confident in New Offense
      Posted 11 hours ago
      Myles Simmons
      Rams Insider

      The Rams made a number of organizational moves during the offseason to help develop young quarterback Jared Goff, from hiring Sean McVay as head coach to signing free agent left tackle Andrew Whitworth. And with the club’s offseason program coming to an end this week, Goff has shown signs that he can take a significant step forward in his second pro season.

      Both coaches and players have extolled Goff for his leadership off the field, and the quarterback appears to be more comfortable and confident during practice.

      “I think a lot of that has to do with the guys around me,” Goff said Tuesday. “I think we’ve done a good job offensively going from the install to on the field and being effective with it. I think that goes back to the coaches as well. Their ability to install and their ability to teach and coach us has been tremendous. It’s been a lot of fun learning with them and continuing to improve myself and the team as a whole.”

      The ease of installing the playbook has been a common refrain from members of Los Angeles’ offense since McVay’s arrival. Players have said it comes from the way the coaches have been so detail oriented in their instruction and focus on learning day-by-day.

      “I’ve enjoyed every day coming out here and learning with them,” Goff said. “All the way back from when we started meeting with them to now — it’s been awesome. I’ve had a really good time learning it. I think I’ve picked it up at a pretty good pace. I like where we’re at right now. Obviously, a lot of stuff to improve on, especially from today. But again, I like where we’re at.”

      From offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur’s vantage point, Goff has done well in making daily strides throughout the offseason program.

      “That’s been the biggest thing with him, is just get a little bit better each day, become a little more consistent on a daily basis,” LaFleur said.

      “I think when you look at trying to find your identity and what you kind of want to hang your hat on within the framework of our offense, I think he’s picked some of those things up well,” McVay said. “Again, like we always talk about, it’s going to be something where we want to do a good job as coaches figuring out our players and then we’ll adjust the system accordingly.”

      That’s particularly important for a signal-caller in McVay’s system, which the head coach often says is set up to make the quarterback’s job as easy as possible. To that end, McVay said Goff will have input into the way the offense functions just like any other player.

      “If there’s something that he feels like is going to make it an easier way for all of the players to understand and call a concept, that’s something that we’re certainly flexible with,” McVay said. “We try to make sure that as coaches we’re...
      -06-15-2017, 05:33 AM