This article series will focus on several different opposing quarterbacks the 49ers will face during the upcoming 2018 season, starting with the NFC West.

In this first installment, we're going to take a look at Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff. The 2016 #1 overall pick entered that season as the back-up to quarterback Case Keenum. Goff did not see the field as a starter until Week 11 against the Miami Dolphins in his rookie season after the Rams benched a struggling Keenum. They did not win a game under Goff and head coach Jeff Fisher was fired before the season even ended.

In 2016, Goff finished with 112 completions on 205 attemtpts, a 54.6-completion percentage, 1089 yards, five touchdowns, and seven interceptions, posting a passer rating of 63.6. Later that offseason, the Rams fired their coaching staff except for Jim Fassel Jr., and hired former Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay, also of the Shanahan family coaching tree, as head coach and Matt LaFleur, former Falcons and Redskins quarterbacks coach under Mike and Kyle Shanahan, as offensive coordinator.

The additions of McVay and LaFleur to the Rams offense was probably the best thing for the young quarterback, as he went from looking lost virtually every play in 2016 to having his flaws masked in 2017. Goff finished 2017 at 296-477, 62.1-completion percentage, 3804 yards, 28 touchdowns, and seven interceptions, with a passer rating of 100.5.

That statistical improvement by itself lacks important context though. In 2016, Goff was throwing to Lance Kendricks, Brian Quick, and Kenny Britt, and the offense prominently featured gadget player Tavon Austin as a regular receiver threat. The lack of talent didn't help Goff, as they dropped a seemingly high number of passes and also couldn't mask their quarterback's throwing issues. Having a one-dimensional offense also didn't help. In 2017, the Rams added left tackle Andrew Whitworth to their offensive line and Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods to their receiving corps while drafting receiver Cooper Kupp and tight end Gerald Everett, rounding out what was quietly one of the most underrated groups of 2017.

Year G GS QBrec Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Lng Y/A AY/A Y/C Y/G Rate QBR Sk Yds NY/A ANY/A 4QC GWD
W-L
2016 7 7 0-7-0 112 205 54.6 1089 5 2.4 7 3.4 66 5.3 4.3 9.7 155.6 63.6 18.9 26 222 3.75 2.82
2017* 15 15 11-4 296 477 62.1 3804 28 5.9 7 1.5 94 8 8.5 12.9 253.6 100.5 48.4 25 172 7.24 7.72 1 1
22 22 11-11 408 682 59.8 4893 33 4.8 14 2.1 94 7.2 7.2 12 222.4 89.4 51 394 6.14 6.18 1 1
Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference

Goff went from looking lost as a rookie to looking like an MVP, at least on paper. The film shows a different story, however.

THE GOOD


It would not be fair to criticize Goff without at least covering what he does well. A few things that stand out are his ability to move around and buy time in the pocket and an ability to hit the intermediate seam throws into tight windows due to having a quick release.

One of Goff's biggest traits coming out of college was his athleticism and mobility in the pocket while running a pass heavy spread offense at the University of California, Berkeley. Some of that athleticism and mobility got him out of trouble in a dumpster fire of an offense under Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Rob Boras.



With the pocket collapsing around him due to an offensive line that gets pushed into its own end zone, Goff quickly progresses through his reads, sees they haven't developed in the time required due to the right side of the offensive line, escapes to the left and gets a pass off to tight end Lance Kendricks (no. 88).



Later in 2016 against the Saints, Goff was able to keep drives alive with his athleticism and mobility, as here again, he has to escape the pressure created on the right side of the offensive line. He manages to stay light on his feet as he shuffles away from the rush and then is able to quickly fling a pass downfield to Kendricks again on a 3rd and 2.



2017 was no different for Goff, and he was able to utilize those strengths in a functioning offense. Pressure on a tackle/end stunt from 49ers defensive lineman Arik Armstead (No. 91) up the middle forces Goff to roll out to his right. Receiver Robert Woods (No. 17) gets behind defensive back Rashard Robinson (No. 33) down the sideline as Goff flings a pass over Robinson's head and into the arms of Woods for a 31 yard gain on 2nd down. It's a difficult ball to throw but Goff is able to skillfully fit it into tight coverage down the sideline while throwing almost off balance.

Goff did struggle throwing deep passes and throwing anything outside the numbers to all levels of the field but one area he excelled at was throwing down the seam into tight coverage.



It's important for any quarterback to be able to move the defense with his eyes and manipulate coverages into positions favorable for the offense and this is no exception. Goff starts out looking to his left, which gets the Redskins safety to drift toward that area of the field. Goff sees nothing open so he comes backside to the seam route to tight end Gerald Everett (No. 81) threading the needle between two Redskins defenders who get there just as the ball arrives.



While not a completion, the ball placement on this pass was superb. The Rams are running a "four verticals" concept, a cover 3 beater since the 49ers are in their base cover 3 defense on first down. Goff drops back and holds safety Jimmy Ward (No. 25) in place on the left hash while tight end Tyler Higbee (No. 89) gets behind strong safety Jaquiski Tartt on the vertical route. The progression in four verts is inside to outside based on where the safety plays the receivers. In this case Goff comes off his read to the left and throws Higbee open behind Tartt, but Higbee drops the pass.



Lastly, showing some nice velocity and a quick release, Goff is able to fit in a seam pass to Woods (No. 17) in the face of the blitz and into an area vacated by the defenders. The quick release enabled him to fit the pass into Woods just as linebacker Eric Kendricks (No. 54) gets there to swipe at it. In the field level angle, you can see the difficulty of the throwing angle as Kendricks is draped all over Woods as the pass gets there.

THE BAD


This past offseason, the Rams let Sammy Watkins walk and signed former Saints and Patriots wide receiver Brandin Cooks to a multi-year deal. The move was a bit puzzling, given that the Rams basically traded one deep threat for another and it led to criticism of Watkins surrounding his production and durability. The durability issue is misleading as he's only missed a half of a season in his first four years. But his season game totals are 16, 13, 8, 16. Another criticism he received is that he doesn't produce enough. But Goff was only accurate to Watkins on 6 of 20 passes at the 16+ yards and deeper according to Jonathan Kinsley of the Deep Ball Project and accurate on just 2 of 16 on passes at the 21+ yard according to PreSnap Reads Cian Fahey. A consistent theme for Goff was regularly missing Sammy Watkins on deep passes, even after he roasted some of the game's best defensive backs.



Watkins, at the bottom of the gif, is 1-on-1 with former Seahawks and current 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman (No. 25). Sherman bumps Watkins at the snap but Watkins just runs right by him as he takes an outside release up the sideline. Goff drops back and looks his way before launching a deep ball down the sideline. Goff barely steps into the throw and as a result has to rely on torque from his arm to control the pass. The pass sails over Watkins' head and out of bounds as he had a step on Sherman.



On this pass, Watkins is lined up 1-on-1 against Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye (No. 21). Bouye doesn't even get a hand on Watkins and he runs right by him on a deep post route. The Rams are running the "yankee concept" and Goff fakes the handoff to running back Todd Gurley. He drops back and launches a pass over the middle to Watkins on the post and completely overshoots him. Watkins had about a two-step lead on Bouye.



Watkins is at the bottom of the screen here against Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (No. 21). Watkins has him beat but Goff overthrows him because he was not open to his target. Goff's plant foot was pointed to the sideline and needed to be pointed downfield outside of the trajectory of that pass. Peterson recognizes the overthrow just after Watkins beats him with a double move but he wouldn't have been able to recover anyways.



Here, Watkins is 1-on-1 at the top of the screen against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (No. 41). Rodgers-Cromartie gets beat instantly off the line and Watkins has a clean route down the sideline. Goff, like he does on so many deep throws, throws off his back foot and out of bounds due to having to control the pass with only his arm.

THE UGLY


While Goff struggled throwing the ball deep, the more troubling concerns in his game are the inability to adequately throw outside the numbers to the sideline at any level. So far through one and a half seasons as a starter, he has really struggled pushing the ball to receivers between the numbers and sidelines on streak/fade routes and shallow and deep out routes/comebacks.



A number of quarterbacks struggle with throwing out routes for a variety of reasons but most notably, Goff's struggles there can be attributed to a lack of proper footwork. On this throw, Goff drops back and plants to throw an out toward the sideline to receiver Kenny Britt (No. 18). As he throws, Goff closes himself off to his target by planting his front more perpendicular to the sideline instead of at his target. When this happens, a quarterback is not able to get enough torque or rotation on his throw and instead has to rely on his arm to control the pass and get it out to Britt. The result is a pass that dies on him as it arrives at Britt.



Those same struggles continued into 2017 and affected his deep passes down the sideline. In 2017, according to Cian Fahey's Quarterback Catalog, Goff threw 21 interceptable passes, meaning he threw the ball 21 times straight into the hands of a defender but the defender could not secure an interception. In a game against Dallas, Goff drops back and zeroes in on tight end Tyler Higbee (No. 89) who's running a wheel route. As he hits the top of his drop, Goff winds up to throw with his plant foot closed to the target, putting the trajectory of his pass outside of the direction of that foot. Relying on his arm again, Goff sails the pass over Higbee's head into double coverage as a Cowboys defender almost tips it to himself. Another thing to note on this throw is that his front foot hops to his left to open up but since he does not have adequate weight transfer, he still is not able to generate enough torque to control his throw.



Goff's generally poor decision making also costs him a number of throws on the sideline or outside the numbers each week. Against the Seahawks, Goff scans the entire field before rifling a pass out to Woods on a deep out route against Sherman. The Seahawks are in their base cover three defense on first down and Goff never even sees Justin Coleman (No. 28) drop into his curl/flat responsibility. Goff comes back to Woods on the left but waits until Woods comes out of his break to throw the pass, which allows Coleman to drop underneath the throw and almost come down with the interception.





Goff also generally never sees the defenders who drop into zones and he doesn't really have the arm strength to fit the pass into tight windows to mitigate those mistakes.

For the Rams to take the next step forward in 2018, Jared Goff will need to clean up these mental mistakes by working on being technically and mechanically sound in addition to utilizing his positive traits, such as having a quick release. He is by no means an incompetent quarterback and he's also young so there is still plenty of time to develop the areas he most needs to work on. This is just where he is at now and it doesn't mean he will stay this way forever. The Rams have added Brandin Cooks and recently gave running back Todd Gurley a four-year contract extension in addition to beefing up their defense by adding cornerback Aqib Talib and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The Rams may not have to rely on their quarterback for much with talent like that, ensuring he can continue to develop while the talent is there.

All gifs courtesy of the NFL.

All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.