When Detroit Lions receiver Kalif Raymond talks about quarterback Jared Goff, he almost seems star-struck with him, honored to be able to share the field with him.
“I’m just so excited to see JG, man. He’s diming it right now,” Raymond said during last week’s mandatory minicamp. “It’s just cool to brush shoulders with greatness, man.”
Goff’s initial season in Detroit had its ups and downs. At first, the veteran quarterback struggled to develop a chemistry with his receiving corps and had a pretty big issue with turnovers—giving the ball back to the opponents 10 times in his first seven games.
But Goff started to turn a corner in the final couple months of the season. After a change at offensive play-caller—plus the addition of Josh Reynolds and the emergence of Amon-Ra St. Brown, the Lions' quarterback started to play significantly better. In his final seven starts, his passer rating increased from 84.7 to 100.0, and the turnovers dropped to just four total.
Questions remain about whether Goff can recapture the level of play that turned into back-to-back Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl appearance with the Rams, but Raymond is privy to one thing the public is not: Goff’s incredible work ethic.
“Every time I try to come in the building, try to be the first one in, the last one to leave, and I cannot beat these (quarterbacks),” Raymond said. “I don’t know what they’re doing, I don’t know if they got a bed here or what, but I can’t beat them, those dudes work their butts off, it’s just cool to see it (paying off) right now.”
The Lions’ coaching staff has already seen the fruits of Goff’s labor. Lions quarterback coach—and former 18-year NFL quarterback himself—Mark Brunell said this is the best Goff has looked to him. While the two have only been together for just over a year, Brunell stopped his media session to really reiterate how much growth he’s seen in the 27-year-old quarterback.
“When I say he’s had an excellent spring, I’m not kidding,” Brunell said. “He really has done very well with just the learning, his work ethic. He comes out here and he works. He puts the time in, it’s very, very important to him, and just his ability to throw the ball. He has elite arm talent and it’s been fun to watch. I think he’s in a great place right now. Just from last year to this year, he’s better at every aspect of his game as a professional. He’s killing it, he really is.”
No one has had a more up-close look at Goff’s transformation than offensive coordinator Ben Johnson. This offseason Johnson and Goff sat down for days looking at the quarterback’s old tape from his Rams days, searching for things the Lions quarterback excels at and then implementing those concepts into Detroit’s new offense. That process, along with just being more comfortable with his new surroundings, has led to a more confident quarterback.
“I feel a lot different,” Goff said. “I feel, again, the same way from year one to year two (jump with the Rams). You know your way around the building, you know the coaches, you know the front office, you know everybody in here. You’re able to walk around a little bit more confidently, knowing your place.”
Ultimately, Goff will still have to prove it all on the field, but with a solid offensive line, a significantly improved receiver group, and another year under this coaching staff, expectations are sky-high for the Lions quarterback.
“One of my top priorities, personally, is to help him have the best season of his career,” Johnson said. “One thing that we’ve done is included him a lot in what we’re trying to do schematically, and so we spent some time this offseason watching more of the stuff he did a few years ago in LA and how we can incorporate some of that, while also challenging him to take the next step in some areas of improvement for him as a player as well. He’s having a good offseason, though. I’m really encouraged with where he is, too.”