NFL News & Analysis

Grading QB Jared Goff's first NFL start

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 20: Quarterback Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams passes the ball in the first quarter of the game against the Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Coliseum on November 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The wait for No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff's NFL debut is finally over.

In Week 11 against the Miami Dolphins, the Los Angeles Rams quarterback got the first start of his rookie season, playing all 62 snaps and attempting 31 passes. Goff earned a 50.2 overall game grade, 18th-highest among NFL QBs this week.

While the Rams ultimately fell to the Dolphins late in the game, what can we make of Goff's performance?

The first thing we saw was a game affected by the weather. It was raining in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and both Goff and Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill had throws that were clearly affected, making it difficult to fairly evaluate either player compared to typical, dry-weather games.

Goff famously struggled as an 18-year-old California freshman against Oregon in the pouring rain, fumbling the ball away on two of Cal’s first three possessions before getting benched late in the first quarter. That game was a virtual monsoon of a rain storm, and nothing at the Coliseum yesterday was even close to that deluge, but it was an interesting wrinkle to throw at the rookie, who must surely have been expecting the weather at his first home game—in Los Angeles—to be anything but a factor.

For those Rams fans hoping to see Goff transform the passing game and breathe life into the offense, it didn’t quite happen that way. Over the course of the game, he only attempted five passes over 10 yards in the air from the line of scrimmage—two of which came in the final three plays, as he tried to mount a forlorn drive to rescue the game—and he didn’t complete any of them.

Goff put one back-shoulder throw more or less where it was supposed to be early in the game, only to see it broken up by CB Byron Maxwell; by and large, though, this was a game of short, underneath passing.

It’s not that Goff didn’t want to look deep, but rather that Miami’s defense was bringing plenty of pressure, and the QB didn’t have an endless amount of time to sit in the pocket and survey the field.

Even with a few plays where he held the ball too long, Goff’s average time to throw was 2.26 seconds, the fourth-fastest time in the league this week. 67.6 percent of the passes he attempted were out in 2.5 seconds or less, again the fourth-highest rate in the league, and his average depth of target was 8.1 yards down field, tied for 18th—one spot above Chiefs QB Alex Smith.

Despite that quick passing offense, Goff was still under pressure on 15 of his 34 dropbacks, and on many of those throws, was inaccurate, though it is difficult to judge how much of that was impacted by the slick conditions.

When kept clean, Goff completed 66.7 percent of his passes, though for just 4.7 yards per attempt, and had a passer rating of 77.3; when he was pressured, those numbers all crashed. He completed just 38.5 percent of passes under pressure, for almost a full yard less per attempt (3.8) and a passer rating of 49.8.

Jared Goff vs pressure

Overall, Goff didn’t make any catastrophic mistakes like the ones that punctuated his preseason performance, which will be encouraging for those looking to see if he was mentally ready for the big stage, having been kept on the bench for so long. He wasn’t working through his progression much, but he didn’t often have the kind of time to get that done. Crucially, though, he wasn’t completely misreading plays, outside of one pass early on that looked like he took the wrong option on a slant/flat combination route to one side of the field.

Goff’s biggest issue in this game was simple inaccuracy. He overthrew his receivers four times, under-threw them once, and missed laterally twice. While Goff was under pressure plenty in college, he was typically pretty accurate even when under duress. Last season, even when hurried, Goff was accurate on 64.7 percent of his passes, good enough for top 10 in the nation, so it seems unlikely that ability would desert him as a pro.

If Goff's accuracy was significantly affected by the rain, then we’ll get a far better idea of what he can do in a week’s time when the Rams take on the Saints. New Orleans plays in a dome, and also doesn’t have anything like the pass-rush that Miami fields weekly.

Goff’s first NFL action wasn’t exactly a let-down, nor does he look likely to provide any kind of spark to the L.A. offense this season. He is a QB still very much being eased into action, and had his work made even more difficult in Week 11 by playing in the rain.


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