Dan Campbell: Detroit Lions QB Jared Goff’s turnovers issues due to poor pocket awareness

Detroit Free Press

When Jared Goff was a young quarterback with the Los Angeles Rams, his offensive tackles warned him about drifting too deep in the pocket and stumbling into the pass rush they were trying to keep off his back.

“Those tackles are constantly talking to you like, ‘Hey man, like once you get past that spot, you’re on your own,’” Goff said Wednesday. “And I think as you get older, you’re like, ‘OK, I’ll be on my own and see how it goes.’ And no, that’s not the right mentality to have, like … move up in the pocket and do my job.”

Goff’s pocket awareness has come into question again as the Detroit Lions have lost four straight games to fall to an NFL-worst 1-5 while Goff has racked up turnovers.

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The second-year Lions starter had four turnovers in last week’s 24-6 loss to the Dallas Cowboys and now has 23 turnovers in 20 games in Detroit.

He ranks third in the NFL with nine turnovers this season, more than every quarterback but Matt Ryan (12) of the Indianapolis Colts and Matthew Stafford (11) of the Rams.

“I think we’ve got to refocus him on awareness in the pocket a little bit and just continue to hammer him home,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “And it’s not just him, there’s quarterbacks that’ll begin to drift a little bit or they feel certain things, you start moving and you don’t realize you may be moving deeper than you need to, or you’re moving into something else. And I really do — it’s, we just have to continue to stress it, coach it, show it, cause he understands. He responds to it, he sees it, he knows it.”

Goff said he drifted too deep in the pocket twice against the Cowboys last week, sensing pressure that wasn’t there.

On one second-quarter play, Goff faded back and to his left as Kalif Raymond ran a deep post route down the left sideline. Donovan Wilson beat running back Jamaal Williams for a sack on the play because Goff was 10 yards deep in the pocket, taking away Williams’ blocking angle after a play-action fake handoff.

Had Goff stepped forward to throw the ball, he might have had Raymond for a touchdown.

In the fourth quarter, Goff lost a fumble with the Lions trailing 17-6 when he spun away from light inside pressure as right tackle Penei Sewell was riding Cowboys defensive lineman Sam Williams outside. As Goff stopped to reset his feet, Williams ripped the ball from Goff’s hands.

Goff threw two second-half interceptions and lost two-second half fumbles against the Cowboys, and the Lions allowed a season-high five sacks in the game. They had given up just seven sacks in the first five games this season.

“I think it happened twice last week, and it was just a — it’s a bad habit,” Goff said. “I think it maybe — it happened in New England. Maybe I had to get out, and in some cases I didn’t have to get out. I think in the Dallas game, I probably didn’t have to get out, and I probably got out two more times than I should have.”

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While Goff defended his ball security Wednesday, chalking last week’s performance up to a “a tough game” and insisting “for the most part I’ve been taking care of the ball” this season, the timeliness of his errors has been costly.

Three of Goff’s turnovers have been returned for touchdowns this season — James Bradberry and Tariq Woolen have interceptions returned for scores, and Kyle Dugger took a fumble back for a TD — and six of his nine turnovers have come with the score separated by one possession.

In the Lions’ turnover-ridddled second half Sunday, Goff forced an interception on a third-and-12 throw to midfield with the Lions trailing, 10-6. The Cowboys scored the game-clinching touchdown on the ensuing possession.

“It doesn’t matter what quarterback you are, you don’t want to be put — when you’re facing a team that’s got very good rushers like we just saw, you don’t want it to be where you’re one-dimensional and their rear’s this high in the air and they’re in a track stance,” Campbell said. “That’s tough. That’s tough on any quarterback, but it certainly, it makes it difficult. So we just want to keep emphasizing it. Play with rhythm. Stay in the pocket, make the throws. He sees it, he’s aware of it.”

Goff said if he does those things it should help the Lions win games, something they have not done enough of this season and something he feels responible for.

“It’s my job to win games and to lead our team to wins and lead our offense to points, and in some cases, we led our offense to points but not wins, and it’s not enough,” he said. “And I’ve been on teams where it’s been both ways, where it’s high-scoring affairs at all times, and you have to score more than the other team, and I’ve been on teams where it’s control the ball and win by three points, and so whatever it may be, do your job, and get the W is most important.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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