Top pick Goff to make first start

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Greg Beacham

THOU­SAND OAKS, CALIF. » A per­son with knowl­edge of the de­ci­sion tells The As­so­ci­ated Press that quar­ter­back Jared Goff will make his NFL de­but on Sun­day when the No. 1 pick starts for the Los An­ge­les Rams.

The source spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity Tues­day be­cause Rams coach Jeff Fisher hadn’t made the of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment. Los An­ge­les (4-5) hosts the Mi­ami Dol­phins this week­end at the Coli­seum, where Rams fans chanted “We want Goff!” two weeks ago dur­ing a loss to Carolina.

Goff watched the first nine games of his rookie sea­son on the side­line for the Rams, who have scored an NFL-worst 15.4 points per game with one of the league’s least suc­cess­ful of­fenses. Vet­eran Case Keenum has started ev­ery game, pass­ing for 2,169 yards with 11 in­ter­cep­tions and nine TDs.

Af­ter weeks of in­creas­ing scru­tiny on the of­fense’s strug­gles, the Rams fi­nally de­cided to see what they’ve got in Goff. Los An­ge­les couldn’t score a touch­down in last week­end’s 9-6 vic­tory over the New York Jets, fail­ing to reach the end zone for the third time in nine games.

Los An­ge­les traded sev­eral top draft picks to Ten­nessee in April to move up to draft Goff, hop­ing to solve years of un­der­per­for­mance at the NFL’s most im­por­tant po­si­tion. The Rams also traded up to make a splash in their re­turn to Los An­ge­les af­ter a 21-year so­journ in St. Louis, where they hadn’t made the play­offs since 2004 or had a win­ning record since 2003.

But af­ter Goff played unim­pres­sively in the pre­sea­son, Fisher re­peat­edly de­clined to pro­mote the rookie over the past two months while his of­fense strug­gled on al­most a weekly ba­sis, say­ing he wanted Goff to be in an ideal po­si­tion to suc­ceed.

It’s in­creas­ingly clear that the Rams’ of­fense doesn’t pro­vide an op­ti­mal op­por­tu­nity for any quar­ter­back, but at least Goff will now be learn­ing on the job.

The Rams’ of­fense is 31st in the NFL with just 308.0 yards per game. Their pass­ing game is ranked 25th with 225.4 yards per game, in­creas­ing in re­cent weeks be­cause of Los An­ge­les’ pro­found strug­gles run­ning the ball.

The Coli­seum crowd has been eager for a change, boo­ing the of­fense and chant­ing for the rookie while the Rams strug­gled through a 13-10 loss to Carolina two weeks ago. Los An­ge­les couldn’t score against the Pan­thers un­til mid­way through the fourth quar­ter.

The Rams then failed to reach the end zone against the Jets, but the de­fense car­ried them to their first win since early Oc­to­ber.

Goff, who turned 22 last month, was a three­year starter at Cal­i­for­nia in a spread of­fense bear­ing lit­tle re­sem­blance to the Rams’ more pro-style schemes. That ad­di­tional learn­ing curve per­suaded the Rams to be pa­tient with Goff while Keenum got his first chance to be an NFL team’s open­ing-day starter.

But Keenum has strug­gled along with the Los An­ge­les of­fense, re­peat­edly fail­ing to make big plays in im­por­tant sit­u­a­tions. The vet­eran has thrown eight in­ter­cep­tions and five TD passes over the past five games for the Rams, who en­dured a four-game skid be­fore last week­end’s win.

Goff got ad­di­tional prac­tice time with the Rams’ first-team of­fense dur­ing their re­cent bye week, and Fisher re­peat­edly has said Goff was ready to run the Rams’ of­fense in a game. He’ll get his first shot against the Dol­phins, who have the NFL’s ninthranked pass­ing de­fense with po­tent pass-rush­ers Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake, who have com­bined for 12 sacks.

Goff is the first quar­ter­back cho­sen with the top pick who didn’t start his team’s opener since Ja­Mar­cus Rus­sell in 2007. Since then, Matt Stafford, Sam Brad­ford, Cam New­ton, An­drew Luck and Jameis Win­ston had all started their teams’ first games.

ESPN first re­ported the Rams’ de­ci­sion.

BILL KOSTROUN — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Quar­ter­back Jared Goff, the first over­all pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, will make his first start for the Los An­ge­les Rams on Sun­day againt the Mi­ami Dol­phins.

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