Jared Goff Easily Had the Best Game of His Career

With a new head coach and different wide receivers to throw to, Jared Goff took a huge step forward with a big performance on Sunday.

We're technically not even done with one full week of the 2017 NFL regular season, but it's time to talk about Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff.

When he finally found his way onto the field last year, he was quite bad -- like the worst quarterback with regard to Net Expected Points (NEP) bad. Every time he dropped back to pass as a rookie, the Rams lost 0.28 of an expected point. His total Passing NEP of -64.6 was easily the worst in football, and he only needed seven games to accomplish that feat.

All of that happened with Jeff Fisher as his head coach. Now, Goff has Sean McVay calling the shots, and the implementation of a real NFL offense appeared to give the former first overall pick and the rest of the Rams some hope moving forward.

Best By Far

Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs currently has the biggest game for a quarterback in Week 1 entering action on Monday, throwing for 368 yards with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. His 22.34 Passing NEP is the best among all passers this week, as is his 0.59 Passing NEP per drop back. But you know who is right behind him with a 17.59 Passing NEP and the exact same 0.59 Passing NEP per drop back? Jared Goff.

Yes, it’s just Week 1. And yes, this was a bad Indianapolis Colts defense without their best cornerback in Vontae Davis. However, Goff faced some bad defenses last season and wasn’t anywhere near this successful. His best game, against a bad New Orleans Saints defense in Week 12, produced a Passing NEP per drop back of -0.09. The league average for all quarterbacks last season was 0.10.

Here are Goff's performances from last season, along with how the defenses he faced ranked by Adjusted Defensive NEP per play.

Week Opponent Def NEP/P Rank Passing NEP per Drop Back
11 MIA 18 -0.22
12 at NO 30 -0.09
13 at NE 11 -0.32
14 ATL 25 -0.35
15 at SEA 7 -0.12
16 SF 28 -0.42
17 ARI 6 -0.51

Just a 0.0 outing would have been a tremendous positive outlier and maybe a sign of things progressing. But this, this should raise an eyebrow. Maybe two.

Getting Comfortable

This started with Goff being more comfortable in the pocket. During his starts last season, he was sacked on 11.3 percent of drop backs, and although he did get sacked once on Sunday, there was not the constant fear of pressure that loomed over every attempted pass.

One way McVay and the Rams got around this was giving Goff easy reads off play-action passes. This is a typical way to get young quarterbacks into a flow of a game, but Los Angeles rarely did that last season. Per Football Outsiders, the Rams ran play-action on just 16 percent of passes in 2016, which was the seventh-lowest rate in the league. They took advantage against the Colts, though, and it wasn't even due to a great running game. While Todd Gurley also looked a little more comfortable behind the offensive line, he rushed 19 times for just 40 yards with a Rushing NEP per attempt of -0.21.

The third offensive play and Goff’s second pass featured a play-action that saw the young signal-caller turn his back to the defense before finding Robert Woods crossing over the middle on a post route. These types of plays just weren’t in the offensive playbook last year.

On the touchdown pass to Cooper Kupp in the second quarter, Goff had good protection, kept his base stable, and looked off his first read before finding Kupp in the end zone on third down. Last season, Goff was 38-of-65 (58.5 percent) with 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, a Passing NEP per drop back of -0.34, and a Success Rate -- the percentage of plays that positively impact NEP -- of 24.6 percent on third downs.

Against the Colts in this situation, he was 7-of-10 with a touchdown, a Passing NEP per drop back of 0.56, and a Success Rate of 54.6 percent.

None of this means Goff is destined to be a star. However, it provides some hope that he’s not the colossal bust he appeared to be after his half season of play in 2016. The odds of turning things around after a bad rookie campaign aren’t all that high, but Goff does have a unique set of circumstances going from a Jeff Fisher offense to an NFL one.

This development is worth keeping an eye on. Goff’s progress is what matters most for the future outlook of the franchise, and he could get another three or so weeks to work out some kinks.

Los Angeles’ next three games come against the Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, and Dallas Cowboys. Those defenses ranked 26th, 28th, and 17th by Adjusted Defensive NEP per play last season. He might need those matchups to continue getting comfortable because the next stretch of games before their Week 8 bye features the Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Arizona Cardinals.

If Goff and the Rams can get through that stretch mostly unscathed, there could be real reason for hope in LA.