Rams QB Jared Goff could get his first NFL start, even if it’s only a preseason game
Jared Goff has played as a reserve in each of the Rams’ three exhibitions, but he could achieve another of his pro football firsts if he starts Thursday against the Minnesota Vikings.
Coach Jeff Fisher declined to say whether Goff would start — “Don’t know yet; there’s a 50-50 chance,” he said Tuesday — but quarterback Case Keenum and the rest of the first-team offense and defense will probably sit out all, or nearly all, of the preseason finale, a game generally regarded as the last chance for players to make impressions before rosters are cut from 75 to 53 players.
“It would be great,” Goff said of starting. “It’s something I’m more used to, kind of getting out there and going in right away instead of trying to warm up again on the sidelines.
“Whatever it is, I’ll be ready.”
Goff, the No. 1 pick in the draft, will not be under pressure to play at a level that would unseat Keenum as the presumed starter for the Sept. 12 opener against the San Francisco 49ers.
The competition for the starting job failed to materialize because Keenum, a fifth-year pro, has played efficiently while Goff has struggled with rookie mistakes.
Last week, before the Rams played at Denver, Fisher said that he wanted Goff to release passes quicker and take “that next step” in his development. The progression must continue against the Vikings.
“It’s especially important that the ball comes out and that he’s doing the right thing in the run game,” Fisher said. “There’s no telling what we’re going to get out of [the Vikings’] defense. . . . Just improve the decision-making, which he’s done each and every week.”
Goff debuted in the second quarter of the exhibition opener against the Dallas Cowboys and played only two series. He had a pass intercepted and was sacked before his night was cut short because of soreness in his left shoulder. A week later, Goff fumbled in his first two series against the Kansas City Chiefs but came back to pass for a touchdown.
Last week at Denver, Goff avoided turnovers and was victimized by multiple dropped passes by receivers. He said playing against Super Bowl-champion Broncos exposed him to NFL all-out blitzes.
“Goff’s still learning,” receiver Tavon Austin said after game. “Just like when I came in [to the NFL], I struggled a little bit.
“Everybody goes through that. He’s definitely going to be a great quarterback for us.”
In three exhibitions, Goff has completed 16 of 33 passes for 165 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better over the course of the whole training camp,” he said, “and I feel like I’ve made really good strides.”
Tuesday was the last day of practice at UC Irvine. The Rams will move operations to Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks upon their return from Minneapolis.
“It hasn’t been too painstaking,” Goff said of a training camp that began with his arrival on July 26.
Goff became the focal point of the franchise after the Rams traded to the top of the draft to select him. He said he had enjoyed being part of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” series, and joked about omnipresent microphones.
“Everything you say — you look up and there’s a microphone,” he said. “It kind of gets annoying at times but they’ve been great. . . . The crew’s been awesome and it’s been a good experience.”
A solid performance against the Vikings would enable Goff to finish the exhibition season on a high note.
His goal going into the game is no different than any other.
“Try to be as consistent as possible,” he said, “and, again, get the ball to the guys who can make some plays.”
The Rams waived safety Jordan Lomax to reduce their roster to the NFL-mandated 75 players by Tuesday’s 1 p.m. PDT deadline. The team cut 14 players on Monday. “They’re not easy,” Fisher said. “I’ve been doing them for a long time and I do each and every one personally — I’ve always done that. You tell them the truth and you stand behind that. Sometimes, over the years, people disagreed with our opinion, but that’s OK.” . . . Defensive tackle Michael Brockers did not practice.
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