Rams’ fans finally will get top draft pick Goff
LOS ANGELES—The last time the Los Angeles Rams played at the Coliseum, boos rained down on the team’s ineffective offense and fans chanted, “We want Goff!”
Two weeks later, here he is. Jared Goff, the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, will make his regular-season debut today when he starts against the Miami Dolphins.
“I’m ready to go,” he said, “and I’m excited.”
So, presumably, are Rams fans after watching the NFL’s lowest-scoring offense. The Rams are 4-5 and coming off an uninspiring 9-6 victory over the New York Jets. They failed to score a touchdown in a win that ended a four-game losing streak, and they had scored only one touchdown in each of their previous two losses. After saying for weeks that quarterback Case Keenum was not the issue, coach Jeff Fisher on Tuesday replaced him with Goff.
Fisher acknowledged the anticipation from fans. The Rams gave the Tennessee Titans six draft picks for the opportunity to move to the top of the draft and select Goff No. 1.
“We traded a lot away to get him to be our future,” Fisher said, “and it’s his turn now.”
Rams players said they accepted the change and are eager to see whether Goff can inject some life — and touchdowns — into an offense that ranks next to last in the NFL.
Goff, 22, appeared overwhelmed at times during four exhibition performances, but coaches have said that he has progressed on the practice field and in the classroom.
“Having a young QB in the game, we have to know as an offense that we need to protect him more,” tight end Lance Kendricks said. “Make sure he doesn’t take any shots he doesn’t need to take, make sure we can help him gain confidence in himself."
Said offensive lineman Rodger Saffold: “We don’t expect him to be perfect, going to have some growing pains here and there, but if we fight hard enough, we should be able to win.”
The Rams have been competitive in most games because of a defense that ranks seventh in the NFL. But the offense has averaged only 15.4 points a game.
Three of the Rams’ next four opponents — the New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons — rank among the NFL’s top six in scoring.
The Dolphins are 19th, averaging 22.7 points a game. Miami has averaged 29 points during a four-game winning streak that improved its record to 5-4.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Jay Ajayi — whom Rams players and coaches compared with a young Marshawn Lynch — lead the offense. Tackle Ndomukong Suh stars for a defense that also features linebacker Kiko Alonso, who returned an interception for a touchdown in the final minute of last week’s 31-24 victory at San Diego.
First-year Coach Adam Gase noted the challenge of preparing for a quarterback who has not taken a regular-season snap.
“We have to be very sharp within the game of trying to figure out what they could possibly lean on or go to that he does really well,” Gase said, “and, maybe, try to figure out what possibly could give him problems.”
The Dolphins are expected to employ a blitzing scheme designed to confuse the inexperienced Goff and put him under constant pressure.
At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Goff has yet to develop mature physical strength. That could be an issue if he is hit repeatedly by Suh and others. But Goff was often under duress from opponents’ pass rush during his first few seasons at California and he never missed a start.
“We saw how tough he was at Cal,” Rams offensive coordinator Rob Boras said. “We hope he doesn’t have to be that tough and take hits.”
Fisher cautioned that Goff was “going to have some moments, like all young quarterbacks do” but that he expected him to perform well.
He also preached patience.
“One game is not going to define a quarterback,” Fisher said. “He’s going to learn, and it’s not going to be perfect.”