In one series against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1, Goff showcased impressive command of the offense while completing 3 of 4 passes for 47 yards in an eventual 27-23 loss.
The efficient performance was a continuation of what has been a strong training camp for Goff that has earned him plenty of praise from teammates and coaches.
“Definitely confident. I guess commanding. He’s understanding the playbook and he’s knowing what to do and he’s going right away. There’s not as much hesitation,” Lions center Frank Ragnow said of Goff.
Goff had a disappointing 2021, posting the 24th-lowest QBR in the league (39.5). But the Lions are banking on the display against Atlanta being the first fruits of an offseason dedicated to helping the former No. 1 overall pick rediscover the form that led the Los Angeles Rams to Super Bowl LIII.
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Goff worked with his personal quarterback coach, Adam Dedeaux, to improve his footwork and refine his throwing mechanics. He also invited teammates to training sessions to help build chemistry ahead of the new season. That work, combined with the Lions front office providing him two new weapons at wide receiver and a new offensive coordinator committed to building an offense around his strengths, could have Goff poised to make a giant leap in what is likely to be a make-or-break season for him in Motown.
“I respect what he’s done. He kind of battled through all of it, but he knows he’s gotta play well,” Lions general manager Brad Holmes said. “So, it’s not about just us putting the stuff around him, and he can just be the same person, he knows that he’s gotta up his play as well.
“I think it’s a two-way street, but we’re fully behind him and that’s what [coach] Dan [Campbell] and I said this offseason was to get him some help, make sure he’s supported and put him in the best position to succeed and I think we’ve done that. But, yeah, he’s gotta play and he knows that.”
Going back to Cali
THIS FEBRUARY, like they have every year since 2017, Goff and Dedeaux met up at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, California.
They watched tape and put together a list of things Goff could improve upon for the upcoming season. One of their biggest focus areas for 2022: footwork.
“One of the bigger undertakings that we did — and we’ve talked about it over the years — was some adjustments on his footwork out of the [shot]gun and changing him to left foot up, which you’ll see is different this year,” said Dedeaux, who has worked with Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford and Lamar Jackson.
Goff said the new stance keeps him open to the left side of the field easier.
“There’s a bunch of guys in the league that go right foot forward and do a great job at it and I’ve done it my whole life until this year,” Goff told ESPN. “And it’s just a technique thing. It helps you get a little more open to the left. That’s the main thing it helps me with.”
Dedeaux said the change required the Lions to sign off but had been a long time coming.
“We’ve talked about it over the years but it’s the first time that we were able to commit to it. We got permission from the coaching staff to go full head of steam with it,” he said.
The two also worked on varying Goff’s release and taking better advantage of his athleticism in the pocket. Describing the tweaks as “toolkit stuff,” Dedeaux said being able to change arm angles will make Goff more of a weapon in the pocket.
Joining them in California this year were Goff’s top receiving targets — tight end T.J. Hockenson and receivers DJ Chark, Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds. The group participated in throwing sessions over the summer to work on timing, rhythm and building a rapport that has been evident throughout training camp.
“His knowledge of the game. His control of the offense. He’s taking control. So, me and him, I can have conversations with him about anything on the offense and it shows up on the field because I kind of know what he’s thinking, he knows what I’m thinking,” Chark told ESPN.
EVEN WITH ALL that work and attention to detail, one burning question remains: Will this be Goff’s last season in Detroit?
Goff is in the final guaranteed year of his contract. As such, the Lions would incur a $10 million dead cap hit if they release him after the 2022 season, meaning they could do so without much financial consequence. Additionally, Detroit has two first-round picks in the 2023 NFL draft for which a number of highly regarded quarterbacks, such as Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, should be eligible.
Detroit’s front office, though, showed its confidence in Goff this offseason by signing Chark, drafting Alabama wideout Jameson Williams and promoting new OC Ben Johnson, whose top priority, he says, is to help Goff have “the best season of his career.” The Lions also didn’t draft a quarterback this spring despite Goff posting his worst Total QBR since 2016, his rookie year.
Goff has looked better in camp this year compared to last. Whether that translates to the regular season remains to be seen. But Holmes is confident he’ll have the tools he needs to succeed.
“I don’t want to say, ‘No excuses,’ but I do think the more weapons and the better resources that you surround your quarterback with is just better and it helps them out more,” Holmes said.
“You could say that for any quarterback. [Goff] will obviously have more coming into this year. I really admire and appreciate what he did with what he worked with last year. I wouldn’t say it’s no excuses, but we just expect him to be set up for success.”