The San Francisco 49ers host the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday Night Football, and it marks their first shot at what might be a new-look Jared Goff. The Rams first overall pick of 2016 had an atrocious rookie season, and in one appearance against the 49ers, he threw for 90 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.
The Rams hired Sean McVay as their head coach this offseason, and offensive wunderkind is doing some good things with Goff and the Rams offense. Through two games, Goff has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 530 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He was solidly efficient in the season opener, and while he struggled against Washington, he still made some plays. Thus far, he’s clearly improved from last year.
I took a few minutes this week to chat with the folks at Turf Show Times. One of the biggest questions on my mind was about Goff’s play thus far. I asked them what McVay has been able to do to get this kind of improvement through two games. Here’s what they had to say.
Three things. Protection, target quality and scheme simplicity.
The Rams' pass protection through two games has made things much, much, much more workable for Goff compared to 2016 when he spent the majority of snaps under constant and varied duress. Whatever the cause whether it's just the addition of LT Andrew Whitworth and C John Sullivan or coaching, the line play has been much better in the passing game allowing Goff to operate more comfortably and allowing McVay to use much of the playbook.
Beyond the line, the passing game targets are nearly all first-year Rams. Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods came from the Bills via trade and free agency, respectively. Rookie WR Cooper Kupp is looking every bit the part of a draft steal as the 69th overall and thus nicest pick of the draft. TE Gerald Everett, who went a round earlier, is looking like a very good fit for McVay's offense, though he picked up a leg injury in Week 2 we'll have to monitor from the injury reports. So all of the primary weapons are new...and better than previous year's rosters. They're definitely making things easier for Goff.
The last aspect is just keeping things simple for Goff. He's doing a fine job managing the game and making good decisions. In Week 1, the Colts gifted the Rams a comfortable working environment, so Goff didn't need to press the gas. Week 2 could have gone off the rails, but Washington made various mistakes in the middle of the game that gave the Rams' passing offense a chance to keep things in check, and Goff again made simple, but appropriate decisions.
The combination of those three things have made this Goff's best two-week performance of his nascent career. If it extends into Thursday, it'll be hard not to buy into the McVay effect saving Goff's career from the bust-prone clutches of Jeff Fisher.