Through the first quarter of the season, quarterback Jared Goff has made clear, tangible progress from Year 1 to Year 2.
He’s completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,072 yards with seven touchdowns and just one interception. Goff is currently leading the league in yards per attempt at 9.2 and yards per completion at 13.7. And he’s currently No. 3 in passer rating at 112.2.
So how does head coach Sean McVay assess the 22-year-old quarterback’s growth and performance through the season’s first quarter?
“I think he’s doing a great job,” McVay said. “You look at the way that he’s just managing the game. And I think that anytime you’re able to take care of the football like he has in three out of the four games, get the ball to different playmakers — we’re getting a lot of guys involved in the pass game and we’re not taking a lot of sacks, which I think is also a good credit to the quarterback. So, he’s doing a nice job managing the offense.”
Part of not taking sacks falls on the signal-caller, but Los Angeles also clearly set out to improve its offensive line play during the offseason, bringing in left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan. Both signings have appeared to pay off, with the unit working well together to keep Goff upright. The Rams are currently No. 4, giving up a sack only 3.36 percent of the club’s dropbacks. After being sacked 26 times in just seven games, Goff has been taken down only four times in four games so far in 2017.
“I think it starts with those guys are playing well as a unit. We’ve been fortunate where the only time we’ve really had an injury was when John had to come out in the San Francisco game and we all mentioned what a great job Austin Blythe did, being able to step in in that situation,” McVay said. “But, I think you look at those five playing as a unit, continuing to develop a continuity and a rapport together and then I think we brought in some veteran pieces that have been some great influences with Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan.”
“Not only have they been great on the field, but off it as well just answering questions I have,” Goff said of Whitworth and Sullivan. “They’re both veteran-experienced guys and have a lot of knowledge and have gone through a lot — a lot of different experiences through the league. So any questions I have, I can go to them and they’ve been great so far.”
Goff has also been demonstratively reduced turnovers this season. He’s only accounted for one giveaway — an interception at the end of the Week 2 contest against Washington. One reason for that is having running back Todd Gurley so heavily involved in the pass game.
“I think just continuing to try to go through my reads, go all the way through it and get all the way through the progression,” Goff said. “The appearance of Todd through the first four games and the check downs. Having the confidence with him has helped a lot. It’s relieving when I get through my progression and see him wide open, it’s like, ‘Ah, here we go, it’s an easy one.’ It’s just trying to go through the progressions, continue to learn and continue to get better and learn defense and stuff like that.”
But according to McVay, taking care of the football has been a significant coaching point offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Greg Olson, as they stress it day-in and day-out.
“Jared has been very coachable, receptive to everything that we’re trying to get done. But I think he’s doing a good job of when we talk about exhausting your progressions, being able to eliminate one and two, three, four and then if you get your [running] back out you’ve got your outlet or your fifth [receiver] eligible if he’s involved in protection,” McVay said. “That’s been a big key — being able to quickly get it out, playing within the timing and rhythm of the plays, and I think that’s where you see he’s finding completions. We’re not taking a whole lot of negative plays and that’s going to be a good recipe for playing at a high level at the position.”
Avoiding giveaways will be particularly important this week against Seattle’s vaunted defense. The Seahawks have forced four takeaways so far this year — three interceptions and a fumble — but have a tendency to force quarterbacks into bad decisions by getting pressure up front. And so while it’s well known Seattle plays a lot of Cover 3, the unit can mix up its looks in order to cause some confusion.
“It’s a great task. This is an excellent defense,” McVay said. “I think you look at the history of what they’ve done over the handful of years, they’ve got All-Pro players, really, on all three levels — up front, at the linebacker spot and on the back end. They play hard, they’re fundamentally sound, they’re very well coached and I think those are the recipes for great defenses and that’s certainly what we’re getting ready to go up against.
“I think you look at when they get into those known passing situations, they can home with four-man rushes,” McVay continued. “They play great coverage on the back end, whether they’re playing their three-deep or some of their man principles, and they’ve got elite players all over the place. It’s an excellent challenge. I’ve got a whole lot of respect for this defense and we certainly have to be at our best if we’re going to give our self a chance to compete.”
“I think people say it all the time — they don’t do much and they know they don’t do much, but they do it so well,” Goff said. “And [they’ve done] it consistently well for so long now that they’ve proven to be hard to beat and will be a challenge for us, like I said. But we’re excited for it.”