Keep your shirt on: Can body overhaul mean production upgrade for Rams’ Jared Goff?

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — He says he has always taken his job seriously, but this season, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff is taking his preparation a step further.

“You can see that there is a different gear with the way he’s preparing,” right tackle Rob Havenstein said. “I mean, shoot, he even has his own diet going on. Get that body right.”

Teammates have taken notice of the new Goff. “He’s in the best shape of his life,” tight end Tyler Higbee said.

However, Goff’s head coach has not.

“No,” Sean McVay said, chuckling, when asked if he could see a difference in Goff because of his newfound diet. “I haven’t seen him with his shirt off — so, I’d be able to tell you if I saw him with his shirt off.”

The 6-foot-4, 222-pound Goff is hoping the results will be noticeable with his shirt on.

After an uneven 2019 season that included a statistical downturn in several major categories, Goff is not only ready to return to form, but wants to perform even better than when he helped the Rams to consecutive division titles and a Super Bowl appearance to end the 2018 season.

“Put in a lot of work this offseason,” said Goff, who signed a four-year, $134 million extension before the 2019 opener. “Had a lot time to really reflect and figure out what [I] wanted to get better at and really focus on.”

Last Sunday, Goff and the Rams got off to a promising start, opening the season with a 20-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium.

In Week 2, they’ll embark on their first road trip of this unusual coronavirus season to play the Philadelphia Eagles and quarterback Carson Wentz, the No. 2 pick behind Goff in the 2016 NFL draft, at Lincoln Financial Field.

With Goff now in his fifth season, the Rams’ offense firmly belongs to the former top overall selection, who becomes the focal point of a unit that no longer includes running back Todd Gurley II.

“I’ve been very pleased with his decision-making, his ownership, his command of the offense,” said McVay, now in his fourth season as coach.

Goff intends to take advantage of 1,000-yard receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, Higbee, as well as a trio of running backs. But to do that, Goff took extended measures to improve himself.

“I have the whole thing going now,” said Goff, who turns 26 in October. “And I feel really good.”

He worked with a trainer over the offseason, hired a nutritionist to examine and shape his diet and a chef to prepare meals. Goff says it was partly an effort to become more mobile and quicker on his feet, though he didn’t divulge his new superfoods.

“Hopefully, I can extend plays a little bit better than I have throughout my career,” he said.

A season after being ravaged by injuries and inexperience, an improved and sturdier offensive line will help Goff’s attempt to bounce back from a season in which he threw 16 interceptions to 22 touchdown passes. So will his intangibles, including an accurate arm and bad memory.

“I remember being with him in camp and he would have stretches in camp where I’d be like, ‘My goodness Jared, this is bad, like you’re making bad decisions, you’re late with the football, it’s coming out of your hand funny,'” said Dan Orlovsky, an ESPN NFL analyst, former NFL quarterback and a brief teammate of Goff’s during training camp in 2016. “And then you’d have the very next period, he’d look like Joe Montana.”

Even with an arm that can place any pass with precision, it might be Goff’s ability to move on from disappointment that could be considered his best asset, and his best hope to rebound.

“It’s always been a strength of mine,” Goff said. “And something that a lot of people have noticed as teammates throughout my life.”

It helped him quickly put behind the seven winless starts he made as a rookie under former coach Jeff Fisher, and he went on to put together an 11-win season in 2017, helping spark the Rams to their first division title in 14 seasons.

And it will help him move on from the disappointment of 2019, when the Rams finished 9-7 and missed a playoff appearance only a year after a Super Bowl run. Goff passed for 10 fewer touchdowns (32 to 22) than 2018 while throwing four more interceptions (12 to 16). His total quarterback rating plummeted from 63.7 in 2018 to 50.6, dropping him from a top-10 ranked quarterback to 22nd in the league.

Along with Goff’s self-improvement efforts, McVay also took the initiative to hire Kevin O’Connell as offensive coordinator, filling a role that sat vacant the past two seasons after Matt LaFleur’s departure.

O’Connell not only will assist with preparing the offensive game plan, but has become the de facto quarterbacks coach.

Goff expressed excitement over the arrival of O’Connell, who was Washington’s coordinator last season and spent five seasons as an NFL backup quarterback.

“He’s played the position,” Goff said. “He understands the little intricacies that go along with playing it.”

O’Connell and Goff choose different skills to work on daily, including Goff’s fundamentals, stance and posture. They’ve also continued to focus on his footwork, an effort Goff honed in on during the offseason.

Goff’s accuracy has proved to be a difference-maker in the Rams’ past three seasons. But could his diet help provide an extra boost this year? That’s still to be determined.

“We’ll see if that pays off,” Goff said.

For McVay, diet or not, he likes what he sees from his quarterback … at least on the field.

“He’s feeling good, he’s playing good football,” McVay said. “So that’s the most important thing. Whether he looks better or not without his shirt off. I think [Goff’s girlfriend] Christen cares about that more than me.”

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