Jared Goff is clearly a limited quarterback, but should Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn call more downfield passes?
On Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff went 21-for-35 for 203 yards (5.8 yards per attempt) with a touchdown, an interception and a lost fumble. In a game where the Lions’ defense played well enough to win, Goff’s ineptitude kept the offense in check as much as Minnesota’s defense did.
A testament to the offensive mind of Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay is what he was able to coax out of Goff. Lions’ offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn doesn’t have the talent around the quarterback to deploy that McVay did and does, but Goff’s NextGen Stats passing chart from Sunday is telling.
Just five of Goff’s 35 attempts traveled more than 15 yards downfield, with none completed. Another three traveled 10-15 yards in the air, with two of the eight total 10-plus air yard throws completed.
The Lions pass catchers were successful after the catch on Sunday, netting 145 yards of YAC (per Pro Football Focus, h/t to Lions Wire). But on nine third down pass attempts for Goff, none had enough air yards to convert a first down. Just two ultimately moved the chains, with 28 yards after the catch on those (another h/t to Lions Wire for the list of third-down pass attempts from Sunday).
3rd-and-9: Incomplete pass to KhaDarel Hodge, 2 yards from LOS
3rd-and-5: Complete to St. Brown for 13 yards, 0 air yards
3rd-and-6: Complete to Cephus for 4 yards, 4 air yards
3rd-and-8: Complete to Cephus for 21 yards, 6 air yards
3rd-and-10: Complete to St. Brown for 8 yards, minus-1 air yards
3rd-and-7: Incomplete to Trinity Benson, 3 air yards
3rd-and-5: Complete to D’Andre Swift for 2 yards, 0 air yards
3rd-and-6: Complete to St. Brown for 2 yards, minus-2 air yards
3rd-and-10: Incomplete throwaway on a screen, minus-1 air yards
So it’s no surprise Detroit went 3-for-11 on third down against the Vikings, and their third-down conversion rate for the season (32.1 percent) is 30th in the league with one game left in Week 5.
A thin group of wide receivers, which is now even thinner with Quintez Cephus set to miss significant time, is not helpful to Lynn calling deeper pass plays or Goff completing them if he throws them. An injury-thinned offensive line, with left tackle Taylor Decker and center Frank Ragnow out, also doesn’t help when Goff would rarely have time to wait for downfield routes to develop.
With the Chargers, Lynn had Philip Rivers as his starting quarterback up until his final season as head coach in 2020. In his almost full season as Bills offensive coordinator in 2016, he had Tyrod Taylor as his starting quarterback. Rivers never met a throw he wouldn’t try to make, even as his physical skills deteriorated, while Taylor definitely knew his limitations as a passer (almost to a fault).
Lynn will continue to be challenged to scheme and call plays around Goff’s limitations, while also trying to get the most from an inexperienced wide receiver group and navigate backup offensive lineman having to play. But if opposing defenses can continue to have no concern about downfield passes, whatever the reasons are for the lack of volume and/or success, the Lions’ offense will continue to struggle. So Lynn may have to go max protect and have Goff let it fly occasionally–assuming he’ll pull the trigger.