Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens: QB Jared Goff (Rams) And Contextualizing Pressure

Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens examines quarterback Jared Goff’s work under pressure and illustrates why we have to better contextualize pressure scenarios to get a more accurate picture of the Rams’ quarterback’s work and development potential.

Football Outsiders posted its updated DVOA rankings for quarterbacks when they worked in clean pockets and when they worked under pressure. Goff was the No.5 passer on its list in protected situations, but 24th out of 34 ranked passers when facing pressure.

FO also graded the 2018 Rams offensive line as the fifth-best unit at protecting the passer. It presents a compelling case from a statistical perspective that Goff is bad under pressure.

Author Scott Spratt, who did the FO research, did a great job of balancing his analysis of Goff by touching upon Kirk Cousin’s improvement under pressure from bottom-third of the league to top-10 option and then showing that Goff is actually ahead of Cousin’s development track.

Context matters when making broader statements about a quarterback’s game because what I haven’t seen is an in-depth analysis of pressure types:

  • Is it mostly interior or edge pressure?
  • Is it a single defender or multiple defenders at the same time?
  • Which type of offensive plays are most difficult to execute against these different pressure types?
  • Do quarterbacks execute with a higher rating against pressure when in pistol, shotgun, or under center?
  • On a scale of difficulty, which types of pressure are the most and least formidable for quarterbacks to handle?

I seek this context because we watched the Lions, Bears, and Patriots foil the Rams offense late in the season and much of the blame be misplaced on Goff when a deeper study of scheme and strategy suggest that defenses found answers to Sean McVay’s scheme and McVay didn’t develop any timely counter attacks.

A good example was the way the Lions dismantled the Rams’ screen game. Bill Belichick credited the Lions’ approach to the Rams offense as a template for his Super Bowl-winning work against LA later in the year.

Here’s a successful screen pass early in the game from the rams:

The Lions shut down this play repeatedly afterward with a defensive line work that confused the Rams offensive line and put Goff in untenable situations because there aren’t usually viable check-downs for screens and a quarterback’s rating will naturally suffer if an opposing defense has figured out a play and your play-caller is essentially banging his head against the wall for the rest fo the game.

These twists also tricked the Rams line play on throws that weren’t screen passes.

Later in the game, the Lions also made it a point to eliminate check-downs by sending its ends to the pocket and then disengaging to the flat to cover Gurley leaking from the backfield.

Despite the Lions having the number of McVay and the Rams’ line, Goff flashed skill under pressure in this game.

After doing this analysis in December, I expected the Bears to present a similar challenge for the Rams offense because of their healthy secondary and strong pass rush and upcoming opponents like the Eagles and Cardinals to at least make life more difficult for Goff because of its defensive fronts.

Even so, Goff’s response to difficult forms of pressure remains promising even if it’s not showing up with his quarterback rating. When I’m scouting quarterbacks against pressure, I’m seeking poised movement that’s efficient and gives the quarterback a quick second- or third-chance to deliver the ball.

I also want to see if the quarterback displays quick enough processing of the situation and his targeted route to deliver the ball with effective placement. Although Goff’s statistical production under pressure doesn’t look good, his tape has long provided impressive displays of skill in these situations stretching back to his years at Cal.

Although I haven’t seen the data on interior versus edge pressure, quarterbacks say that interior pressure is more difficult to handle. Here’s Goff executing a picture-perfect response to the Packers’ interior pressure below.

What you may not realize is that the best response to many forms of pressure is not to move off one’s spot until the defender is closing tight and at the height of his momentum. Many equate this to deer-in-headlights behavior when it’s the exact opposite. Watch Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, and several other quarterbacks execute with this timing.

Goff excels at this type of move and it buys him greater time than he’d earn moving earlier in the play. The efficiency to move left, reset his feet, and fire the ball where only his receiver can make the play at the sideline is just as impressive.

This is a difficult pressure situation and Goff handles it well. So is the play below with defenders compressing the throwing lane and Goff managing to fit the ball over the defense. It’s not a pretty throw but the placement protects Woods and gives him a place to win the target.

Here’s an excellent display of accuracy under pressure that may not interfere with the throw but Goff knows he’s going to take a huge hit. The pass Goff delivers is pinpoint to a tightly covered Woods.

Note that five of these nine examples take place with Goff working under center, which often means the quarterback is taking more time setting up than his peers in shotgun and pistol. In addition to the work from center, Goff is often working with his back to the defense and executing play-action.

When the opponent knows the answers and doesn’t respect the play-fake, the type of pressure intensifies and places Goff in qualitatively more difficult situations than what can be quantitatively measured. Although the data suggests Goff is the main culprit for the Rams’ woes under pressure, there’s worthwhile evidence that suggests otherwise.

Goff, the Rams offensive line, and the coaching staff have room to improve against specific types of pressure that have foiled the Los Angeles offensive strategy. Looking at the examples above, which are representative of a larger sample size of positive efforts against pressure, Goff’s tools against pressure are much better than the stats may currently indicate.

These are tools that are similar to the likes of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Andrew Luck. With the improved scheme support, Goff’s data under pressure should rise.

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One response to “Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens: QB Jared Goff (Rams) And Contextualizing Pressure”

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