Hard to believe, but for the fourth time in 10 games this season, the Miami Dolphins on Sunday will be facing a quarterback who is making his NFL regular-season debut.
This time it’s Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams, who gets his first start and his first game action because coach Jeff Fisher decided the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft finally is ready for the challenge.
Well, that and the fact that the Rams are last in the league in scoring at 15.4 points per game and have been held without a touchdown three times.
How well will Goff perform against the Dolphins, who pretty much made veteran Philip Rivers look like a rookie in the fourth quarter of last week’s 31-24 win over the Chargers?
It figures Goff will do just fine, if Miami’s other matchups with newbie quarterbacks is any indication. Here are the stats those supposedly nervous rookies put up.
In Week 2 at New England, Jacoby Brissett from Dwyer High School was forced into emergency action against Miami because Tom Brady was on NFL suspension and Jimmy Garoppolo got hurt. Entering the game in the second quarter with the Patriots leading 21-0, Brissett did just enough to nail down a 31-24 victory by completing 6-of-9 passes for 92 yards and avoiding turnovers.
In Week 3, Cleveland’s Cody Kessler got sacked three times by the Dolphins but overall kept the Browns in the game by completing 21-of-33 for 244 yards with no interceptions. Miami won the game in overtime but Kessler’s quarterback rating of 85.9 was no embarrassment. Three times this season Ryan Tannehill of the Dolphins has failed to hit that mark.
In Week 8, the New York Jets turned to Bryce Petty, a 2015 draft pick who never had played a down, because Ryan Fitzpatrick was getting an injury checked on the sidelines. The kid wasn’t much of a factor in the game during his brief appearance but he didn’t hurt the Jets, completing both of his passes for 19 yards.
Now comes Goff, the 6-foot-4 star from the University of California who was drafted way ahead of all the rest.
Brissett and Kessler were drafted in the third round, with the 91st and 93rd overall picks, respectively. Petty went in the fourth round, the 103rd player taken overall in the 2015 draft.
The point is don’t count on Goff being a goof on Sunday. All of these kids have NFL arms or they wouldn’t have been drafted at all. It’s a matter of feeling comfortable with whatever the coaching staff is calling for them, and, of course, not falling so far behind that the defense can feast on obvious passing situations for the entire second half.
That’s what happened to Tannehill in his NFL debut, the season opener of 2012. Houston led Miami 24-3 by halftime and coasted to a 30-10 victory. In a circumstance that would have been unfair for any rookie, Tannehill was forced to throw 36 passes. He was intercepted three times and sacked twice. A very bad first day at the office.
The second game was much more natural, however, with Tannehill completing 18-of-30 passes for 200 yards in a 35-13 win over Oakland that featured one touchdown passing and one touchdown rushing by the eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft.
With the right game plan, Goff could prove to be very dangerous against the Dolphins. With a bit of panic under duress, on the other hand, Miami’s pass rush could eat him alive.
Either way, it’s way past time to see what the big guy has got. This is the NFL, where the most talented players belong on the field. There really shouldn’t be any redshirt seasons.