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With key weapons gone, Rams’ Jared Goff needs to improve from 2019

Rams quarterback Jared Goff stands on the sideline at the Coliseum.
The Rams go into the NFL draft relying totally on Jared Goff at the quarterback position.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

As the Rams prepare for the NFL draft, The Times will examine their roster. Part 9 of 10: Quarterbacks.

It is not an ideal way for a quarterback to spend the offseason, but Jared Goff is apparently making the most of being home-bound. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the fifth-year pro said he was working out in his home gym.

“I actually feel like I’m in maybe the best shape I’ve ever been,” Goff said this week.

Goff will need to maximize his strengths — and improve weaknesses — for the Rams to again become a playoff team.

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Last season, after signing a $134-million extension, Goff passed for 22 touchdowns, with a career-worst 16 interceptions. The Rams finished 9-7 and missed the postseason for the first time under third-year coach Sean McVay.

The Rams have since cut ties with two of their most dynamic weapons on offense. They released star running back Todd Gurley and traded wideout Brandin Cooks.

The 2020 NFL draft is on Thursday, and NFL team beat writers have made their first-round picks in The Times’ annual reporters mock draft.

That means Goff will be operating without the benefit of a three-time Pro Bowl player in the backfield and a four-time 1,000-yard receiver. Goff said he would miss Gurley and Cooks as friends and teammates but did not question the moves.

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“I understand there’s a business in this game and those two guys understand that as well,” Goff said, “and that was a decision made and whatever the decision is, we move forward.”

Goff expressed confidence in running backs Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson. He said receiver Josh Reynolds was ready to step into Cooks’ former role.

McVay remains the play-caller and de facto quarterbacks coach but he also hired Kevin O’Connell as offensive coordinator. O’Connell is expected to take on a major day-to-day role with Goff.

Quarterbacks expert Greg Cosell talks with L.A. Times reporter Sam Farmer about top prospects in the upcoming NFL draft in this Zoom chat.

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Goff, 25, has not been sidelined for a game — or more than a few plays — since becoming the starter in the 10th game of his career in 2016.

Blake Bortles, Goff’s back-up in 2019, is a free agent. The six-year NFL veteran is seeking an opportunity to compete for a starting role.

The Rams could sign another veteran, but John Wolford has impressed McVay and other coaches. Wolford, who played in college at Wake Forest and in the defunct Alliance of American Football, was on the practice squad in 2019.

Who is under contract: Goff ($36 million), Wolford ($685,000).

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Free agents: Bortles spent one season with the Rams for $1 million because the Jacksonville Jaguars still owed him $6.5 million. His goal was to learn from McVay and move on.

Draft: The Rams have more pressing draft needs beyond finding a back-up quarterback, but if McVay identified a sleeper pick that fits his system and could develop, the Rams could opt to use one of their seven picks.

Roster decisions: Goff is under contract through the 2024 season. Wolford is on a one-year contract. The Rams are expected to sign a quarterback or two as potential practice squad candidates.

NEXT: Receivers.

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The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the 2020 NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.


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