Jared Goff finally will get to play in front of hometown fans

Jared Goff finally will get to play in front of hometown fans
Rams quarterback Jared Goff passes to Cooper Kupp during the first quarter of a preseason game against the Cowboys at the Coliseum. (K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is located about 11 miles from Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, where Jared Goff showcased his skills during three seasons as California's starting quarterback.

Goff parlayed that opportunity into becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL draft — and the focal point of the Rams' franchise.


On Saturday night, Goff returns to the East Bay for the Rams' preseason game against the Oakland Raiders.

"It'll be my first time back there since college, playing at least, and got some family and friends coming," Goff said. "It'll be good."

Goff and other Rams starters, including recently acquired receiver Sammy Watkins, are expected to play through the first quarter.

That would be a lot more activity than Goff experienced during his last trip to Northern California with the Rams.

Goff, who grew up in Novato, was inactive for the 2016 season opener against the San Francisco 49ers. Wearing a sweat suit on the Levi's Stadium sideline, he watched as the Rams suffered a 28-0 defeat.

In Week 10, Goff finally supplanted Case Keenum.

Now, after going winless as the starter last season, Goff is the centerpiece of an offense that could get a lift from Watkins.

Watkins arrived in Los Angeles only a few hours before last week's preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys. He watched the Rams' 13-10 victory from the Coliseum sideline.

This week, when he wasn't on the practice field, Watkins spent the days leading up to the Oakland game learning formations and what he described as the "ins and outs" of the playbook.

"That's the biggest thing," Watkins said. "Once you know that, you can come out here and compete and have fun."

Watkins flashed his skills during a midweek workout. He appeared more confident as the days wore on.

"He's made a seamless transition," coach Sean McVay said. "We know that we've got to increase the level of urgency to get him where we need to be by the time the regular season rolls around."

The Rams open the regular season on Sept. 10 against the Indianapolis Colts.

McVay, in his first season, is intent on making sure running back Todd Gurley is sufficiently prepared to bounce back from a disappointing 2016 performance.


Gurley entered last season's opener with only four preseason carries. He matched that total last week against the Cowboys, and he is expected to get more carries against the Raiders and in the third preseason game against the Chargers.

The Rams defense on Saturday once again will be without star defensive lineman Aaron Donald. The three-time Pro Bowl selection remains a holdout because of a contract dispute.

"We're still trying to find that solution to get Aaron here and be a part of what we're doing," McVay said. "And, if not, we need to be ready to adjust."

Last week, the starting defensive line featured tackle Michael Brockers flanked by Ethan Westbrooks and Louis Trinca-Pasat.

Linebackers Robert Quinn and Mark Barron and cornerback Kayvon Webster were held out against the Cowboys. Their status for Saturday is unclear.

The absence of Donald and the other projected starters did not seem to adversely affect the Rams against the Cowboys. But that was against a Dallas offense operating without starting quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott, receiver Dez Bryant and left tackle Tyron Smith.

The Raiders feature quarterback Derek Carr, running back Marshawn Lynch and receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.

None played in the Raiders' first preseason game — a 20-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals — but they are expected to play against the Rams.

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein