Bonsignore: Jared Goff, Rams offense show real improvement against Raiders
OAKLAND — Jared Goff lofted a deep ball at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on Saturday night. Sammy Watkins, the Rams’ dynamic new wide receiver, galloped toward the end zone as the ball fell from the night. But just as it was about to settle into Watkins’ hands, a Raiders cornerback swatted it away.
On a night in which just about everything went right for Goff, the Rams and what appears to be their rapidly developing new offensive, the near touchdown elicited smiles rather than grimaces afterward.
Maybe it’s the feeling that play will be there for the Rams’ taking again sometime soon. And, if Goff launches the ball exactly the same as he did Saturday it almost assuredly will result in a touchdown.
“I told him on the sideline I’m going to keep throwing to him,” Goff said.
Or maybe it was just the realization that as good as things go sometimes – and they went pretty darn-near perfect for Goff and the offense Saturday – you just aren’t going to connect on every play.
Whatever the catalyst, with the Rams offense humming in a way we just haven’t seen in awhile and with Goff looking every bit like the quarterback drafted first overall last year rather than the rookie that struggled all of his first season, the Rams could actually appreciate the near miss rather than lament it.
It was that kind of night for the Rams, whose first-team offense marched up and down the field against the Raiders while scoring 17 points in three drives.
And in the process, revealed a young quarterback in Goff who stood tall and poised in the pocket to pick the Raiders apart on 16-of-20 passing for 160 yards and a touchown. An offensive line that protected him – the only sack given up was when Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack savagely split open a tight end double-team – a rookie wide receiver in Cooper Kupp who keeps getting open against NFL defensive backs, and a creative offensive scheme under new coach Sean McVay that, coupled with the vast improvements at wide receiver, line and Goff, might finally add some excitement and firepower to that side of the line of scrimmage.
Even Todd Gurley looked better while averaging 4.8 yards per carry on eight touches.
It was only one night.
And a preseason game at that.
But even on a night a would-be touchdown went awry, there sure was plenty to smile about after Goff and the offense shredded the Raiders in a 24-21 victory.
“Once we moved the ball, got a couple of first downs and got into a rhythm, I think we could definitely feel it,” Goff said. “Certainly by the end of that second drive we felt like we had a good tempo going and we were able to move the ball on almost every down.”
That kind of efficiency has been hard to find with the Rams for so long, it seemed almost a shock to hear players and coaches openly talk about it.
The reality is, it’s probably to be expected. Or at least cautiously anticipated.
The Rams went deep this offseason to build a smoother road on which Goff at least had a fighting chance to reach his ceiling. And in turn, help pull the Rams offense into this century.
For all the flack the second-year quarterback took in a regrettable rookie season, no quarterback can muster much production when he’s playing under duress almost every time he drops back to pass, doesn’t have viable targets to throw to and has no running game to lean on in support.
The additions of left tackle Andrew Whitworth, center John Sullivan, receivers Kupp, Watkins, Robert Woods and Gerald Everett and the hiring of McVay were the Rams putting money and attention toward glaring problems. And from offseason workouts to their recently concluded training camp to the first two preseason games, it’s obvious those changes are taking hold.
And in the process, presenting us with a Goff who can now showcase the elite skill-set that pushed him to the top of the 2016 draft and the bevy of new toys he has to work with.
“I thought collectively our offensive line did a great job, Jared did a good job getting the ball out of his hands and the receivers and tight ends separated n the timing and rhythm of the play,” McVay said.
Kupp caught six passes for 70 yards and was a big-time target on third downs to keep drives alive.
“He’s great player,” Goff said. “He makes it easy for me, the way he runs his routes. He made some really good catches, contested catches, that were big time for us, moved the chains. We expect the same results in the future.”
Woods made two others for 19 yards. Everett, a rookie tight end from South Alabama, had four catches for 30 yards and a flashy 23-yarder to keep the chains moving.
Goff looked confident and alert spreading the ball around, and according to Pro Football Focus he completed 75 percent of his passes in which he wasn’t under pressure.
Amazing how that works, isn’t it?
You can’t discount what Goff did. He was billed as an accurate thrower coming out of Cal and a good decision-maker on where to go with the ball. He was every bit of that Saturday. But he also showed solid footwork in moving his pocket from time to time to buy an extra second or two for a receiver to break open before delivering solid throws.
It isn’t reason to celebrate. Yet.
But certainly it’s something real, something solid, to build on.
In particular, the 23-yard touchdown throw to Kupp in which Goff showed some nice footwork and alertness to let the play develop and then found the wide open Kupp for a touchdown.
“It was planned like that,” Goff said. “We ran it in practice with similar results, Cooper ran free. Came out, saw it, put the ball up.”
And to think, all of this after Goff opened this week in practice getting bitten by the interception bug, including three on Monday that, had the ball bounced differently could have been five.
By Saturday, he was razor sharp.
“My experience with Jared to this point is Jared is nothing but a mentally tough guy who has got resilience and the ability to respond when things don’t work out,” McVay said. “I think he’s able to take it for what it is and learn from it moving forward but I think it’s also our job as coaches to put him in situations that are conducive to making good decisions consistently.”
That happened quite a bit Saturday.
And it’s not to far-fetched to think that might be the norm this year rather than the exception.
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