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Breaking down new Lions quarterback Jared Goff: A film review


Justin Rogers   | The Detroit News

For the first time in more than a decade, the Detroit Lions will enter the 2021 season with a different starting quarterback. Matthew Stafford is on his way to Los Angeles, and in his stead will be another former No. 1 overall pick, Jared Goff.

In the past year, Goff's reputation has taken a hit, culminating in this trade. The Rams sent him to Detroit along with two future first-round picks and a 2021 third-round pick to acquire Stafford, who is nearly seven years older and has battled serious injuries the past three seasons. 

But there's plenty to like about Goff's resume. A two-time Pro Bowler who helped lead the Rams to the Super Bowl two years ago, he's completed 63.4% of his passes for 18,171 yards and 107 touchdowns to 55 interceptions in his first five seasons. 

But statistics can only tell us so much. The only way to better familiarize ourselves with Goff and his skill set is to watch some film. And while it would be awesome to sit back and watch every snap of his career, or even the past few seasons, that's unrealistic. So to get an accurate snapshot, we watched nine games, three from each of the past three seasons. 

For this study, we reviewed the following games:

2018: Week 11 vs. Chiefs, Week 13 at Detroit, wild card vs. Dallas

2019: Week 5 at Seattle, Week 10 at Pittsburgh, Week 16 at San Francisco

2020: Week 1 vs. Dallas, Week 3 at Buffalo, Week 15 vs. Jets

Below is our scouting report from those performances. 

Accuracy

Short — Goff is accurate on throws close to the line of scrimmage — quick outs and slants — but his precision erodes a bit when working the ball to a back coming out of the backfield. It's entirely possible that's the symptom of the pass-catchers more than the quarterback. Todd Gurley never has been viewed as a top-end route runner.

On screen passes, Goff doesn’t push the pace, allowing the defenders to seep into the backfield and the blocking to set up in front of his backs and tight ends, maximizing the play designs.  

Intermediate — Goff is at his best on intermediate routes, regularly hitting his man in stride on crossing patterns and putting the ball on the correct shoulder for receivers coming back toward the line of scrimmage, allowing them to turn up field the best direction after the catch. The Rams consistently asked him to work the ball outside the numbers and he showed proficiency doing it.

Deep — One of Goff’s most frequently utilized routes is the corner/flag pattern. On those throws, he was regularly able to fit the ball in between layers of the zone near the sideline or in the back corners of the end zone.

On go routes down the sideline, he’s less consistent. Every other throw is picturesque, arcing perfectly and dropping into the bucket, requiring little to no adjustment by the receiver.

But there are plenty of misfires on tape, where he overthrows his intended target. He's rarely short on these throws, which, if nothing else, also takes the defender out of the equation.

Goff rarely challenged the middle of the field when looking deep, choosing to test safeties laterally rather than vertically.  

Touch

Goff has a variety of delivery speeds and has a good sense of when to uncork a fastball or put some air under this throws. Against zone coverages, he's able to drive into his throws, delivering a frozen rope up to 20 yards down the field to a receiver finding a soft spot in the coverage.

When his receivers are moving laterally on crossing patterns, Goff generally will take something off the throw, making the ball easier to handle while still allowing the target to take the pass in stride.

He also shows consistent ability to loft a ball over a shallow defender, even when on the move.

Anticipation

Goff has above-average timing with his throws, delivering the ball at or shortly after his receiver comes out of his breaks, allowing them to have consistent separation against man coverage.

Against zone looks, the ball arrives on time as receivers work to their spots. Goff isn’t the most aggressive quarterback when it comes to challenging tight windows, but he does occasionally demonstrate the ability to fit the ball between multiple defenders in the middle of the field.

Decision-making

More often than not, Goff works the ball to his first read. This does lead to a few extra bat-downs as linemen track the quarterback's eyes. If his pocket is clean, he rarely puts the ball in harm’s way, shifting to his second and third reads if the initial option is well-covered, while showing a willingness to check the ball down if that’s what the defense is giving him.

There might be a perception, based on the sharp decline in air yards per attempt in 2020, that Goff is overly conservative. But, for the most part, the film showed the reliance on short throws was schematic and had less to do with the quarterback’s ability.

Arm strength

Goff’s arm strength is adequate. He can make all the throws and works the sidelines well. And if you really need him to squeeze on into a tight window, he's capable. 

If you’re looking for a guy who can effortlessly hurl it 60 yards down the field, you'll be disappointed. His deep efforts rarely traveled more than 35 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

Pocket presence

From the nine games reviewed, this appeared to be the biggest weakness in Goff’s game. In a league that’s trending more and more toward mobility at the quarterback position, his ability to make plays with his feet cannot be relied upon.

Within the pocket, he often demonstrates poor awareness of the rush, whether it’s an incoming blitz or simply the front four running a twist or stunt. When one of his blockers is beat, Goff is slow to react, resulting in pressure impacting his throws.

To his credit, he doesn’t take many sacks and he’s fearless with pressure bearing down on him, standing tall and absorbing a hit in order to deliver a pass.

There are only a couple of examples of Goff evading pressure within the pocket, usually in the form of sidestepping a single rusher.  He shows the ability to reset his feet and deliver accurate throws in these situations, but rarely takes the opportunity to climb the pocket to gain better passing lanes and avoid pressure.

Under pressure

Goff’s accuracy and decision-making significantly diminish under pressure. Unless it’s built into the play design, he’s not going to make a play with his feet, and his overall lack of mobility make scramble drills a nearly non-existent component to his game.

Mobility

As noted above, Goff isn’t going to make many impromptu plays with his feet, but the Rams regularly had him roll out of the pocket by design. While he’s not going to run for many first downs, he throws exceptionally well on the move. Not only does he show a continued ability to deliver in-stride throws moving to both his left and right, he routinely and successfully throws back across his body to an open receiver in the middle of the field.

Mechanics

Goff uses consistent upper body mechanics, with a high elbow release and a good snap at the wrist which results in the ball getting out quick. Some of his longer throws involve a great deal of lower body effort and over-rotation, and his weight distribution isn’t always consistent through his lower body, even on intermediate passes.

In terms of defender manipulation, Goff doesn't often use his eyes to move defenders, and only used a pump/shoulder fake once in the nine games reviews. 

Additionally, Goff fumbled a number of times after pulling the ball down in the pocket, showing a propensity for having it punched free.

Conclusion

The Rams ran an extraordinary amount of play-action. According to data provided by Pro Football Focus, Goff faked a handoff on more than 34% of his dropbacks from 2018-20, ranking first, second and fifth in the league the past three seasons. 

Pressure is Goff's worst enemy, made worse by his below-average mobility within the pocket. While most quarterbacks experience declined efficiency in those situations, his performance falls off a cliff when a rusher breaks through his blocking. Again, turning to PFF for full-season context, Goff completed a paltry 44.4% of his throws with a 45.9 passer rating when pressured in 2020. That drop-off likely played a role in the Rams increasing the usage of designed rollouts the past season and a half. 

When his pocket is clean, and even when he's on the move, Goff is extremely accurate. Additionally, he utilizes his tight ends well, regularly looking for Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee when in Los Angeles, which should bode well for T.J. Hockenson in 2021. 

Similarly, Goff should benefit from having D'Andre Swift in the backfield, a back with above-average skills across the board as a receiving option. 

Throughout the past couple of weeks, analysts have talked about the need to build around Goff. While it's unfair to call him a system quarterback, it will be important for the Lions to continue to emphasize the budding strength of the team's offensive line. Quality protection will be the key to his success.

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers