THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Jared Goff watched the Los Angeles Rams' entire preseason from the sideline. He hasn't thrown a pass in a game since last January, when he lost his first NFL playoff start.
When he steps under the Monday night lights in his native Bay Area, the third-year quarterback is eager to show what he's learned and how he's grown during eight long months without real football.
And for fans expecting a thrilling encore to last season's utter transformation by Goff and the Rams' offense, he plans to have a little something for them, too.
"There's a bunch of stuff we've been working on this offseason that we're ready to display on Monday night," Goff said. "A lot of the stuff is from last season that we're going to continue to do, and then a lot of new stuff that we're doing. What we're going to do, and how we're going to do it, I don't know. But there's a lot of stuff that we're excited to put on the field finally that we've been working on for so long this offseason."
Goff is aware of the expectations on him as the Rams begin a season with Super Bowl expectations against the Oakland Raiders. With new coach Sean McVay guiding him last year, Goff shrugged off a disappointing rookie season and became one of the NFC's most productive quarterbacks as the Rams doubled their point total from 2016 and made a seven-win improvement in the standings.
But Goff also knows he and the Rams haven't actually proven much in the areas that matter, beyond winning a division title and asserting themselves as a contender. Goff's 3,804 yards passing were 10th in the league — although he probably would have been higher if he hadn't been rested for the season finale — and his completion percentage (62.1) was 17th.
Goff went into the offseason knowing he had ample work to do. His teammates and coaches say he has done it well, and they're already seeing the results in practice.
"Just little stuff, like him telling me stuff when he doesn't need to," running back Todd Gurley said. "You just see his progression. Just going through his routes, going through the first receiver all the way down to his checkdown and to me. He's been getting better each day, just taking those little steps. (He) doesn't like when he's out there messing up, and that's what you love in a quarterback."
Goff got no preseason snaps because McVay decided he didn't want to play his first-string offensive line, which started 15 consecutive games together last season and played a major role in keeping Goff upright and effective. So even though Goff probably could have used the work, however brief, he sat out in August along with Gurley and all of the Rams' top skill-position players.
That means Goff will go into Monday's game at Oakland having never thrown a pass in a game to Brandin Cooks, the Rams' high-priced new receiver.
The way Goff looks at it, the inactivity means no opponents will know exactly what to expect from Los Angeles' inventive coach and talented group of playmakers.
"Very excited to get some truly competitive action with our offense," Goff said. "It'll be really cool. The defense only played a little bit (in the preseason) too, and I know they're excited as well."
Goff, who grew up a 49ers fan in Marin County, has played in only one real NFL game back home. He beat the Niners last September with three touchdown passes in Santa Clara, earning the first road victory of his NFL career and the Rams' first of 10 wins in 13 games.
But Goff's NFL career technically began with another Monday night game in the Bay Area: The No. 1 overall pick was inactive as the third quarterback in the Rams' season-opening, 28-0 loss to the 49ers two seasons ago. That year's misery, which included Goff's 0-7 record as a starter, was largely erased in the public mind by his impressive sophomore season.
Goff hasn't forgotten the frustration of his rookie year, and it lingers as a motivating force.
"It does feel like a long time ago," Goff said of that trip to Santa Clara in 2016. "I guess it was what, two years ago? It feels like forever ago. ... I've grown up a lot in those two years. I was 21 then. I'm 23 now. Not too old now, but a little bit older than I was then."