Last winter I chose to do a film breakdown on a lot of the crucial players on a few bad teams. I chose many rookies, including Jordan Howard on the Bears and DeForest Buckner of the 49ers to highlight how good they were and how much they could bring to their team down the line. I decided to go a different direction with the Los Angeles Rams, though.
Goff was arguably the worst quarterback in the league in 2016. He had an awful team around him but his decision making and mechanics were bad. I did not want to give up on him yet, but it seemed like it would be years before he at least became an average quarterback.
He has proved me wrong so far. Goff has completed 70% of his passes and has thrown five touchdowns through three games. His lone interception of the year came late in desperation against the Washington Redskins week two.
The Rams joined the San Francisco 49ers to put on a show on Thursday night football last week. They combined for 80 points in a game that went down to the wire. Goff put on a show for the national audience throwing for 292 yards and three touchdowns in what was his best game of his short career so far.
His best throw of the game was unfortunately dropped in the first quarter.
The Rams run a corner/vert combo on each side of the field with their running back running a shallow curl over the middle. The 49ers are in cover 2 man. Both of the 49ers linebackers drop in shallow coverage with the safeties behind them in zones of their own. Goff wants tight end Tyler Higbee running a vertical route into the end zone but the linebackers are blocking his throwing lane. He looks towards the shallow running back, which pulls one of the linebackers out of the way. He then throws a perfect bullet pass that should have been a touchdown had Higbee not dropped it.
The end result was not ideal but this is exactly what the Rams coaches want from their quarterback. His decision making and accuracy were questionable last year, but this play demonstrates a huge step forward for him. Last season he would have tried his best to sneak the ball over the linebacker. He clearly has increased his football IQ and has a better understanding. The pass itself was perfect, and one you would expect from the elite class of quarterbacks.
His deep ball was great all night for the second year quarterback. The Rams gave him the green light to let the ball fly downfield and his decision making and accuracy punished the 49ers defense.
The Rams run play action on this play against the 49ers blitz. Goff drops back to pass and his eyes instantly scan deep down the field. He sees Watkins has room ahead of his man. He delivers a great pass as he takes a hit from a defender and Watkins makes the catch for a huge gain.
Not only did Goff had the peace of mind to get that pass off despite the blitz, he placed it perfectly. The 49ers safety was coming over to help and should have gotten there in time to break up the play. He placed the ball towards the sideline instead of Watkins inside shoulder. Only the receiver could make a play on the ball and it gave him the ability to use his body as a shield to make sure he came down with it.
Goff would hook up with Watkins again late on a crucial touchdown, but it was a much shorter throw.
Goff again uses his eyes to clear room for his receiver here. Watkins and another receiver both run shallow curls, and there is a linebacker between them. The defender is in range to potentially break up a pass to either of them. Goff manages to look him off, causing him to clear the area. He darts the ball to Watkins who quickly turns upfield for a touchdown.
The second-year quarterback was not perfect, though. He sometimes would panic under pressure and get stuck on certain receivers. He had a tendency to always drop way back out of the pocket at the slightest signs of pressure and seemed scared to escape out of the pocket to the left. He also rarely steps up and into the pocket allowing the rush to close behind him.
On this play, he entirely misses an open man as he was too focused on his running back in the flat.
Goff drops back and has a clean pocket for the most part. The 49ers rush begins to come around the edge and the clock in his brain seems to go off. He stares down Todd Gurley the entire way and completes a pass to him that ends up losing a yard. Another receiver was wide open over the middle of the field, but Goff just never saw him. It did not cost the Rams much but being able to scan the entire field and not just panicking when the pressure still has not reached you are things that the young quarterback will have to work on over the next year.
It is clear that the improvements that Los Angeles made to the offensive line have done wonders for Goff. He is not spending the majority of his time just trying to escape the pocket with his life like he was last season, and has time to scan the field and deliver a good pass. When that protection does break down, though, he seems to struggle and make a few of the panicky mistakes you expect from a young quarterback.
Goff looks like an entirely different player this year, and the Rams look like a decent team that can steal a few games. With Seattle and Arizona struggling, a hot year from Goff could have the Rams competing for the NFC West title come winter.
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