Top pick Goff to make first start
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.
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.