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Rams have been short on long ball, but Jared Goff has been as efficient as ever

Rams quarterback Jared Goff throws against the New York Giants during the second half.
Rams quarterback Jared Goff has not had many opportunities to connect with long passes this season.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

As the NFL’s eighth-rated passer through four games, Rams quarterback Jared Goff has demonstrated good mobility, improved strength in the pocket and a deft touch on short and mid-range passes.

Receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp have scored on catch-and-run plays, Kupp’s covering 55 yards to clinch last Sunday’s victory over the New York Giants.

Goff, however, has yet to air out many deep passes.

“I just haven’t had necessarily the opportunities there,” Goff, who has a 108.1 passer rating, told reporters during a videoconference this week. “We hope to, but, haven’t had to up to this point.”

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With a 3-1 record heading into Sunday’s game at Washington, it’s not as if the Rams seventh-ranked offense has suffered without Goff taking the deep shots that were part of the Rams’ highly productive units in 2017 and 2018.

Those teams featured Woods and Kupp, but also Sammy Watkins and Brandin Cooks, players that in part received massive contracts from the Kansas City Chiefs and Rams, respectively, for the mere threat of burning defenses deep.

Rams will need to prepare for different quarterback since Washington has decided to start Kyle Allen instead of Dwayne Haskins.

In the opener against the Dallas Cowboys, Goff connected with rookie Van Jefferson for 31 yards on a key third-down play. And Goff said he just missed Jefferson on a play against the Giants that might have netted 40 yards.

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After the Rams traded the speedy Cooks to the Houston Texans in March to clear salary-cap space, McVay said that Josh Reynolds had the ability to replace Cooks as a receiver that could threaten a defense over the top.

So far, however, Reynolds has 10 catches for 135 yards, the longest for 23 yards.

McVay said the decision to go deep is “a week-to-week thing” based on coverages defenses present.

“We’ve called some of those shot — it’s just a matter of whether we’ve thrown them or not,” McVay said Thursday, adding that Rams had opportunities against the Buffalo Bills and the Giants. “There’s definitely some guys that are pushing, that are going down the field and it’s really not any different than it’s been in years past.”

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Four games is a small sample size, first-year offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell said. As the season progresses, he said, more opportunities will present themselves.

Rams head coach Sean McVay, right, low fives quarterback Jared Goff.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

“I mean, it’s as good a duo as a quarterback and head coach that I’ve seen since Belichick and Brady.”

Washington coach Ron Rivera, comparing Rams’ Sean McVay and Jared Goff to former Patriots duo Bill Belichik and Tom Brady

“It’s never anything you want to press or try to force,” said O’Connell, who also serves as quarterbacks coach, “because normally when you do that the defenses can take advantage of that and bad things can happen.”

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Goff, who has been sacked six times, faces a Washington defense that features a young and aggressive front, though end Chase Young’s status for Sunday’s game is uncertain. Washington has 14 sacks. Washington ranks fourth in the NFL in pass defense, giving up 208.5 yards per game.

Washington coach Ron Rivera said McVay appears to trust Goff more in their fourth season together. He said the relationship between McVay and Goff could develop into one resembling the successful long-term partnerships of coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees in New Orleans, and coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in New England.

“A young guy developing with another young coach and those two could be there together for 10, 15 years and you can have a dynamic duo,” Rivera said during a videoconference with Los Angeles reporters. “That’s what they have in New Orleans.

With two games already postponed because of positive coronavirus tests, the NFL could benefit from expanding the season to an 18th week.

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“I mean, it’s as good a duo as a quarterback and head coach that I’ve seen since Belichick and Brady.”

Informed of Rivera’s comments, Goff said he considered it a “huge” compliment.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” said Goff, who has passed for six touchdowns, with two interceptions. “Those guys have, obviously, won Super Bowls together.

“Me and Sean have to win one first and then we can start, you know, hopefully having a long career together. But we’ve got a lot of work to do and we feel good about where we’re at. I’ve obviously loved Sean as my head coach, and I feel he feels the same way about me, but it’s been great, and we hope to keep growing.”

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Etc.

Linebacker Micah Kiser (groin/chest) and offensive lineman Bobby Evans (shoulder) did not practice. Linebacker Kenny Young (knee) and cornerback Troy Hill (ankle) were limited. Running back Cam Akers (ribs) was a full participant, per the Rams injury report. ... Washington defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (knee) was a full participant. Young (groin) and receivers Dontrelle Inman and Terry McLaurin were limited.


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