Are the LA Rams for Real? Quick Reaction to Preseason Game 1
August 13, 2016 was a big day for Los Angeles football fans.
It was the day that the LA Rams made their official return to the field, making it the first home game for the LA Rams in 22 years. Fittingly, they played in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the home in which they won four NFL championships between 1946 and 1980. Even though this was just a preseason game, fans across LA were clearly really excited about it because this happened:
— Mario Lopez (@MarioLopezExtra) August 13, 2016
Unbelievable. But I suppose you never know when the team might uproot and decide to go to Wyoming or something, so better to get your games in early if you’re a fan. And with 89,140 fans showing up for the game, each likely driving in their own car, there’s sure to a premium on parking spaces.
Building on this excitement is also the fact that the LA Rams are the subject of this year’s “Hard Knocks” on HBO. In fact, this was such a big deal, they even had a “red carpet premiere” in LA, with celebrities such as Rampage (the Rams’ mascot), the Rams Cheerleaders, and…um…that might be it…
— Rampage Rams Mascot (@RampageNFL) August 10, 2016
Anyway, the season premiere for “Hard Knocks” was met with mixed reviews (though I have to admit, C Eric Kush’s tank top collection was pretty entertaining) after bringing us such riveting moments like this fired up speech by head coach Jeff Fisher:
— SB Nation NFL (@SBNationNFL) August 10, 2016
Wow. It’s like Fisher decided he needed to get amped for the talk and accidentally took Ambien instead of NoDoz. Anyway, with this aside, let’s talk about what was really important, and that’s what we thought of the LA Rams first preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Preseason Game 1
Dallas Cowboys @ LA Rams
As an initial matter, I want to mention that 2015 UDFA Lucky Whitehead, whom I discussed last year as potential high end contributor, returned the opening kickoff for a 101-yard TD. I know he hasn’t done much else, but I’ll repeat again that this guy was a solid contributor in college, and can still be one for the Cowboys in 2016.
I’ll also mention that Rams fourth-round pick Tyler Higbee, from Western Kentucky, whom I discussed as potential breakout candidate during the Football Garbage Time Podcast – Early Preseason Edition, proved that training camp so far hasn’t been a fluke, as he made five catches for 49 yards. He looked solid both on the line and split wide, showing off his versatility as a potential high-end receiving option, particularly in light of the lack of options currently in LA. They don’t call him “Little Baby Gronk” for nothing! Though calling him “little” and “baby” does make him sound a lot less intimidating.
But the real focus of the game was No. 1 overall draft pick Jared Goff. It’s clear the Rams didn’t trade away everything under the sun so that Goff could ride the pine, at least not the entire season, but it was unclear if starting him would even be a possibility in such a short amount of time. The Rams predictably started Case Keenum under center, and he actually performed well going 6 for 7 for 58 yards.
But when Goff took over early in the second quarter, things didn’t go quite as well, with Goff completing 4 of 9 passes for 38 yards and an interception.
Goff’s first series with 9:45 left in the second quarter was an out and out disaster. Without Todd Gurley in the game, Malcolm Brown managed only 1 yard on first down, and fellow rookie Pharoh Cooper just dropped a pass on second down. This all led to third and nine, when Goff desperately tossed up a wobbly duck in the general direction of Corey Harkey (his only target of the game), after being leveled by Cowboys LB Derek Akunne, that was easily picked off by Mark Nzeocha, which he nearly gave right back after a 19 yard return and fumble, only to be re-recovered by Dallas.
.@JaredGoff16 hit as he throws…
— NFL (@NFL) August 14, 2016
Goff’s second series with 3:47 loft in the second was slightly better. On first down, fellow rookie Michael Thomas basically dropped a pass that went off his hands, but Goff finally discovered the aforementioned Tyler Higbee, and would hit him three times for a total of 35 yards. But then an overthrown pass to Brian Quick, followed by another dropped pass by Cooper and a sack ultimately led to a Rams punt, with 21 seconds left in the first half.
Unfortunately, although Fisher was planning to give Goff two or three more series, Goff didn’t return after his non-throwing shoulder became stiff. Although not thought to be serious, there wasn’t a good reason to put the presumed future of franchise at risk at that point.
At the end of the day, the real star for the Rams was second year QB Sean Mannion, who went 18 for 25 for 147 passing yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT, leading the Rams to a comeback win in their homecoming. But we all know that, absent some catastrophic injury, Mannion won’t be doing more than holding a clipboard during the 2016 season.
If nothing else, Goff’s ineffective series in the first preseason game wasn’t entirely his fault. If Cooper caught one of the two balls he dropped, it’s likely the Rams could have at least ended a drive with a field goal. But as of now, it appears Rams fans might have to wait a little longer before their club returns to its pre-St. Louis glory.