A Year After Taking Goff, Is The Rams Passing Attack Finally Taking Off?
by 16 September 2017, 7:12 PM
Will the Rams lease in the basement of NFL passing offenses finally end?
It’s no secret that the Rams passing offense has been a dumpster fire for most of the past decade. Last year, the Rams made a franchise changing gamble by trading a war chest of draft picks to go up to the number one spot and take Quarterback Jared Goff.
Early returns on that gamble have been far from promising as Goff was one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league last season after taking over the starting job in Week 11. He completed under 55% of his passes, had fewer touchdowns than interceptions, and had a QB rating lower than any qualifying quarterback (required at least 14 pass attempts per team game).
Even after such a miserable first year, the Rams were unlikely to pull the plug on Goff so quickly into his pro career. Instead, they basically changed everything around him. Head Coach Jeff Fisher (and Interim Coach John Fassel) and Offensive Coordinator Rob Boras were replaced by Sean McVay and Matt LaFleur. The Rams also brought in a myriad of talented receivers and All-Pro Left Tackle Andrew Whitworth.
While no one expects the Rams to suddenly resemble the Patriots or the Packers, the Rams’ passing offense should be much improved this season and going forward. Here’s why:
The McVay Magic
Most of the optimism around the Rams passing offense is centered around one of the brightest stars in coaching. The Rams elected to make the former Redskins offensive coordinator the youngest head coach in NFL history. In 2013, the Redskins were 26th in the league in passing DVOA. After an underwhelming first season as the OC, McVay’s offense finished the past two seasons ranked sixth and fifth, respectively, in the category. The Redskins were also in the middle of the pack in terms of passing yards the year before McVay took over and were second in the NFL in passing yards this past season.
The Rams lacked creativity on offense last year and McVay is inheriting a unit that was dead last in the league in passing DVOA and second to last in passing yards. McVay will look to have a similar impact on the Rams offense that he did in Washington and a similar impact on Jared Goff that he had on Kirk Cousins.
A Bunch Of New Weapons
The Rams pass catching arsenal has been pretty lackluster for quite some time. Last season, Kenny Britt was the first Ram to have over 1,000 receiving yards (1,002) since Torry Holt in 2007. Despite the Rams letting Britt go to Cleveland as a free agent, the receiving corps added plenty of ammunition this offseason.
The first move the Rams made was signing Robert Woods from the Bills. As a number one receiver, Woods would’ve been quite underwhelming. However, Woods makes for an excellent third receiver as the Rams brought in two other new targets for Goff that slid Woods down the “target chart”.
Right before the season, the Rams traded for the Batman to Woods’ Robin, Sammy Watkins. The former number four overall pick showed signs of being a true number one receiver in his first two NFL seasons before dealing with a number of injuries. In his sophomore campaign, Watkins had over 1,000 yards in only 13 games. If Watkins can stay healthy, he could be the big play number one receiver that the Rams have been looking for for quite some time.
While the former Buffalo dynamic duo should both be quality targets for Goff, many Rams fans are most excited about one of the receivers the Rams took in the draft. Cooper Kupp wasn’t the biggest name in college football last season but if you look at the top of the college football record books, his name is all over them. The Eastern Washington star is the NCAA all-time leader (all divisions) in receiving yards and the FCS all-time leader in receptions and receiving touchdowns. While some might be a tad skeptical of Kupp due to the poor competition he played against, he dominated plenty of D-1 competition. In four games against Pac-12 teams, he had 40 catches, 716 yards, and 11 touchdowns.
Since coming to LA, Kupp has not missed a beat. The third rounder was PFF’s highest graded receiver in the pre-season and the 20th rated overall receiver in Week 1 when he caught four balls for 76 yards and a score. Kupp might be the third receiver on the Rams depth chart, but he may quickly be Goff’s favorite target (if he isn’t already).
This section was going to be titled “An Improved Offensive Line” but there’s only one guy we need to talk about on this offensive line. The Rams are hoping to see improvement from youngsters Rob Havenstein and Jamon Brown but the major change to this unit this offseason was the acquisition of Andrew Whitworth. The former Bengal has been one of the best left tackles in the NFL for the last few years. He was Pro Football Focus’ second rated offensive tackle (and number one rated tackle based on pass blocking efficiency) last season.
If we look at PFF’s offensive line team rankings, you can see the presence that Whitworth’s move has had on two units. The Rams finished the 2016 season as the 27th ranked line and are 18th ranked unit going into the 2017 season. The only major change to this unit was upgrading from one of the worst left tackles in Greg Robinson to one of the best in Andrew Whitworth. Cincinnati’s line ended the 2016 season as the 13th ranked line and after losing Whitworth and guard Kevin Zeitler, they’ve fallen all the way to 31st going into this season.
The impact of Whitworth has already been felt in the 2017 season. He was one of a small group of tackles that didn’t give up a single hurry in Week 1. The Bengals are also missing him tremendously as they haven’t scored a single touchdown in their first two games. Even if the 35 year old sees a slight decline in his play, he’ll still be easily the best blind side blocker for the Rams since Orlando Pace.
The Improvement Of Jared Goff
This is the most vital cog in any improvement for the Rams’ passing offense (and their team success in general). As previously stated, there’s no sugar coating this: Jared Goff was terrible last season. One could argue that there’s nowhere to go but up for the former California Golden Bear. Sean McVay will be looking to make life easy for his young quarterback and improve his game like he did for Kirk Cousins in Washington.
Jared Goff’s Week 1 performance was by far the best of his career and should represent signs of optimism to Rams fans. Along with being his first career win, Goff completed over 72% of his passes and threw for over 300 yards while not turning the ball over once.
Goff was impressive in every aspect of playing the quarterback position this past week. He had a perfect passer rating on deep balls and showed incredible poise while under pressure, something he didn’t do in his rookie season. Plain and simple: Goff was not making these throws last year, most notably passes like the ones to Gerald Everett (0:59) and Robert Woods (2:04).
While some may be reluctant to give Goff much credit for his performance since it was against one of the worst defenses in the league, it must be noted that Goff played some mediocre defenses last year as well and was unable to play to the level that he did this past Sunday. Only two of the seven teams he started against last season had a Passing Defensive DVOA ranking higher than 18th in the league.
In his Week 16 matchup last season against the 49ers (28th in the league in Passing Defensive DVOA), he had the worst statistical game of his career. He completed less than 50% of his passes, threw for only 90 yards, and had a passer rating of 35.1 (lowest of his career).
All in all, the Rams passing game should be much better than it has been in quite some time. One should try to not overreact too much to one game (especially against a bad team) but their Week 1 performance built on the narrative that was being created this offseason. A new offensive minded head coach, a bunch of new weapons, and an All-Pro left tackle should be able to take the Rams out of the cellar of the leagues’ passing offenses. Jared Goff will look to improve on his abysmal rookie season and his development will determine the heights that this offense can truly reach.
CORRECT!Your overall SQ:
Your NFL SQ:
WRONG!The answer was: Answer more NFL questions »
- Sam Bradford
- Kurt Warner
- Marc Bulger
- Case Keenum