Jared Goff's big test, N.Y. Jets' QB decision, Eagles' preparation

With Week 11 of the NFL season upon us, NFL.com's network of reporters gets you up to speed with the hottest news and notes from across the league, including:

» What Eli Manning thinks of Tony Romo's comments.

» The future of two defensive stars with Gang Green.

» How the Eagles are prepping for the 12s.

But first, a look at how the 4-5 Los Angeles Rams could benefit from having Jared Goff under center ...

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While Jared Goff sat for nine games and fellow rookie quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott played well enough to have the Eagles and Cowboys in playoff contention, there was this theory that Goff was serving as Case Keenum's backup because Rams coach Jeff Fisher doesn't like playing rookie quarterbacks.

Really? Fisher purposely steered his team toward another 7-9 campaign simply on principle?

Goff wasn't the best option. He wasn't ready -- and, more than anything, playing him in Week 1 or 2 or 3 wouldn't have been fair to the other 52 players who, having watched Goff practice, would have known as much.

I've been around this team a lot since it moved to Los Angeles and drafted Goff, and this can be taken to the bank: Fisher and everybody involved in trading away a boatload of draft picks to select Goff first overall wanted him to play right away. Goff's delayed arrival had nothing to do with Fisher having sat first-round quarterbacks Steve McNair and Vince Young as rookies in previous situations, Fisher said. It had everything to do with Goff having to learn play calls, protections, depth of routes, blitz pickups, reads ... and how to adjust to the NFL.

"Jared just wasn't ready" to start before now, Fisher told me Tuesday after publicly announcing Goff would be his starter against Miami -- a day after he said he wouldn't. "If he was ready, he would have played. Every situation is different. He would have played if he was ready."

What that says about Goff, about preparing him or even about drafting him No. 1 can be debated, but somehow -- well, not somehow; it was because of their defense -- the Rams went 4-5 with Keenum, and they should actually be above .500.

So now, Goff gets his shot. He gets to prove if he's ready -- or not. Fisher, Goff and others in the organization insist he's up to the task, even though he's taken spot reps with the first-team offense in practice over the past few months in mostly non-contact drills.

"It's time," Fisher said.

This is what fans in Los Angeles, who have been incredibly supportive, want. More than 80,000 of them at the Coliseum even called for Goff during another dull offensive showing in a 13-10 loss to Carolina on Nov. 6. Heck, there were even screams for Tim Tebow.

The fans' open disenchantment with the numbing offensive performances led by Keenum cannot be discounted when it comes to the move to Goff. Los Angeles has waited for more than two decades for an NFL team, and the fan base has been treated to an offense that has made "3 yards and a cloud of dust" seem like a good thing.

So even though Goff only might be ready, a change had to be made. The Rams' offense was foul.

Los Angeles has been scoring 15.4 points per game -- that's 2.1 points fewer than winless Cleveland and 5.4 points less than one-win San Francisco. The Rams have failed to score a touchdown in three games, though they still won two of those because of an overworked defense that plays with accountability, pride and talent.

Keenum ranked close to worst among quarterbacks in terms of passer rating (76.8), not that he got consistent help from his receivers. The offense simply put no fear in opponents, as teams knew they could load the box to stop running back Todd Gurley (515 yards on 167 carries -- or 3.1-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust per carry). The offensive line is suspect and penalty-prone.

Goff now has to work with that. Maybe he will help. He looks better in practice than he did weeks ago -- with regard to his command of the huddle and his timing, most noticeably.

His debut comes against the Dolphins, who are playing quite well in a four-game win streak. Then come games at New Orleans, at New England and home vs. Atlanta -- all teams that can score a lot. The season ends with three NFC West games.

Daunting, yes, but the Rams had to make the switch.

"I learned a lot about how the league works, how Sundays work, how the practice week works, how you work in the classroom and everything in between I've learned," Goff said. "I'm thankful for that experience and thankful for everything that I've gathered over the last however many weeks it's been. But at the same time, I think it's time, and I think I'm ready, ready to move forward and play."

Fisher said the offense will "expand" because of Goff's arm strength. There will be more vertical shots and also a quicker passing game. Goff has a quick release and can see the field better because he is 6-foot-4 (Keenum is generously listed as 6-1).

The passing advantages are nice, in theory, but if the Rams have Goff throwing the ball 43 times per game -- that was Keenum's average in Weeks 7-10 -- they'll either be well behind on the scoreboard or Goff will have proven to be a lot better than his coaches thought he was. Because Goff sat for so long, the latter scenario would generate as much criticism as it would praise.

Maybe the passing game could open up space for Gurley to run, but I don't buy that thinking in full. Gurley faced eight-man fronts last season when he rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 12 starts to earn the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Nearly every great running back faces more eight-man fronts than base defenses and still finds a way.

The Rams' offensive coaches have to hold everyone more accountable, especially themselves. The players have to understand Goff's arrival presents an opportunity for all of them to be better. If they use his rookie status as an excuse to lose, it will just add to the tiresome stack of reasons why they haven't been able to challenge for a playoff spot. But if they do what Prescott's and Wentz's teammates have done, if they raise their levels and behave like they want to be special, then the Rams likely will end up feeling as if they drafted the right player -- and handled his path to the field the right way.

-- Steve Wyche

And now, the rest of this week's notes from NFL.com's reporters:

BALTIMORE RAVENS: Elliott nearly in purple? After a week focused on Dak Prescott taking Tony Romo's starting job, it's worth remembering that it was running back Ezekiel Elliott who powered the Cowboys' victory over the Steelers last Sunday, with three touchdowns, including two in the final two minutes, capped by a stunning 32-yard run with nine seconds remaining.

Elliott already has 1,005 rushing yards and needs just 3 more to break Tony Dorsett's Cowboys rookie rushing record. But he may be facing his toughest test against the Ravens this Sunday. Baltimore has the No. 1 overall defense and the No. 1 rushing defense, allowing just 71.3 rushing yards per game. The Cowboys' offense is averaging more than double that on the ground (a league-high 161 yards per game).

Elliott was the fourth overall draft pick, and the Ravens picked just two spots later, selecting tackle Ronnie Stanley. This week, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said things might have been very different if the Cowboys had passed on Elliott.

"It sure would have been," Harbaugh said. "It would have been a very tough call. I think I know which way we would have gone. I was in the room. I did see the board. I don't have clearance to be the leak. I'm an unauthorized leak on that. He's a guy we thought a lot of. He's a guy that would have gotten very serious consideration if he had been there."

-- Judy Battista

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MIAMI DOLPHINS: Going in blind against Goff. The elevation of Jared Goff to the starting quarterback job in Los Angeles has generated plenty of interest about how the No. 1 overall draft pick will fare compared to the other rookie quarterbacks who have already played. The Miami Dolphins probably wish Jeff Fisher had waited one more week to make the switch.

The Dolphins are on a four-game winning streak that has put them back in the playoff mix, but they will be flying blind Sunday when they face the Rams in Goff's first career start. Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said preseason game film is of limited use because of the basic game plans teams use during that phase of the year, and because many of the players who were on the field with Goff are probably off the roster now, or were so inexperienced they were trying to figure out the offense themselves.

"Our ability to at least tell our players strengths and weakness is very limited," Gase said. "We have to be very sharp within the game of trying to figure out what they could possibly lean on or go to that he does really well and maybe try to figure out what possibly could give him problems. It makes it tough when you have this limited information. You can always try to go back, look at college tapes or go back to our college scouts' evaluations of him, but it makes it tough, because you're so used to having so much information on almost every player you go against, no matter what position they play."

-- Judy Battista

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NEW YORK GIANTS: Manning reacts to Romo. Eli Manning and Tony Romo have waged plenty of battles over the years. Manning is 6-2 against the Cowboys when Tony Romo is not the starting QB, which was the case in Week 1, when the Giants defeated Dallas. Manning is 6-10 versus the Cowboys when Romo starts. So it seemed natural that Manning was asked about Romo and his statement to the media Tuesday.

"I thought it was a classy move by Tony," said Manning, who didn't see the press conference but heard about it. "Good thing to try and end the talk and the speculation. Just go ahead and clear things out. I've always had a lot of respect for Tony, but I thought it was a good move by him."

Manning added that "you always feel for guys that are injured."

"To lose your spot because of injury is tough," he said. "I know Tony will do the right things and he'll be ready to play."

Truth is, Manning doesn't know much about that firsthand. Since taking over as a rookie in 2004, Eli has never missed a start, a string of 192 consecutive regular-season games. Manning was asked, good-naturedly, "Is that why you decided to never miss a start?"

"Yes, maybe," he replied. "I don't want to lose my spot."

-- Kimberly Jones

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NEW YORK JETS: Another day, another QB call. Mike Maccagnan met with the media Wednesday, just as the Jets general manager customarily does during the bye week.

Maccagnan said he has "no regrets" about re-signing Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has been unable to recapture the FitzMagic of 2015. The question is, where do the Jets -- with a 3-7 record and two games remaining against the Patriots -- go now at quarterback? Does Bryce Petty get another start? Does rookie Christian Hackenberg possibly get on the field? Or do the Jets return to Fitzpatrick, assuming his sprained MCL allows for that?

Maccagnan said those decisions are up to coach Todd Bowles, though the GM does have input. "We're focused on trying to be as competitive as we can be and win as many games as we can," he said. "That's the business we're in."

That could signal a return to Fitzpatrick, at least in the short term. It's unlikely the Jets would choose to send an inexperienced quarterback into their next game (at MetLife Stadium in Week 12) knowing Bill Belichick is on the opposite sideline and that home fans are (presumably) in the stands.

Keep this in mind with Maccagnan: He was in Houston when David Carr was drafted first overall in 2002. Carr started all 16 games as a rookie and was sacked 76 times. That helped to shape Maccagnan's view of young quarterbacks and when to play them. He believes it is important to "set them up for success," meaning the Jets will continue to be patient with Hackenberg.

"You don't just wing it," Maccagnan said. "It's a little more complicated than that. ... It's a decision we don't take lightly, I know that."

-- Kimberly Jones

Big decisions loom after 2016. Maccagnan would not comment directly on the future of Sheldon Richardson with the Jets, and he would not confirm reports that the team shopped Richardson at the trade deadline.

Maccagnan sent mixed signals when asked about Darrelle Revis, who recently told Newsday that his "body's breaking down" and told the Daily News that he is "old."

"There are probably plays that if you ask [Revis], he'd probably like to have back," Maccagnan said. "There are times where there are glitches in his play, but he has played well at times this year."

Revis is owed a guaranteed $6 million next year. Leaving Wednesday's media session with Maccagnan, there was definitely the feeling that the Jets would be willing to part with both Richardson and Revis, two former first-round picks, after the season.

-- Kimberly Jones

Maccagnan weighs in on disappointing campaign. You might be getting the idea that Maccagnan is guarded in his comments to the media. You would be correct. About the Jets' current state of affairs, he offered these measured words: "We're not happy. We're disappointed with the record, but we do think that we've done some things to try to turn this thing around."

Asked about Bowles, in his second season as a head coach: "I think Todd is going to be a very good head coach in this league, and I think he's doing a good job right now."

On his own performance, Maccagnan said: "I think with everything we're doing here, I think there's things we definitely could do better as a group. I think I'm disappointed in the record and that's 3-7. I think we'd like to be better, but I'm going to focus more on some of the good things we've done and some of the positives going forward."

The Jets are on the cusp of missing the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. It will be interesting to gauge the patience of the fan base. The Jets have four home games remaining. No owner likes empty seats.

-- Kimberly Jones

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PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Teammates recognize Wentz's ability to lead. Last week, Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz notched the first fourth-quarter comeback of his NFL career. He's had the opportunity several times this season to come from behind late, but Philadelphia's offense has come up short. I was told this week there was a confidence throughout the Eagles' offensive unit during a drive late in the fourth quarter Sunday, with the team down two points to the Falcons, and a lot of it stemmed from Wentz.

Guard Brandon Brooks, who has spent past offseasons interning at banks and has taken graduate-level business classes, is as nimble a mind as you'll find in the NFL. He recognized Wentz's supreme intelligence within the second overall pick's first couple of days in Philadelphia. Wentz used his football IQ while masterfully managing a 76-yard touchdown drive with less than six minutes to go to put the Eagles up 21-15. Wentz also showed a quality during that drive that resonated with his teammates.

"He plays like a kid out there," Brooks said. "He's having fun and he just loves being out there. You just look at him and you see, just like [Tom] Brady or [Peyton] Manning, there is no place he'd rather be in the world than on that field. It gets you excited. It makes you want to enjoy it just as much as he is."

-- James Palmer

Preparing for the 12s. In high school, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson used to sit in the stands at the old Kingdome in Seattle and watch first-hand as opposing teams struggled with the environment created by Seahawks fans. Pederson grew up in Ferndale, Washington, and his family had Seahawks season tickets. They rotated who went from game to game, so, sadly, Pederson wasn't there when Bo Jackson ran over Brian Bosworth.

Fast-forward to today. The Seahawks play in CenturyLink Field, one of the loudest, most difficult venues to play in as an opposing team in the NFL. Since 2005, more false-start penalties have occurred there than in any other stadium in football. The fans play their part. Pederson witnessed it in 2011, when he was the Eagles' quarterback coach for a 31-14 loss in Seattle.

"Going into this stadium, this 12th man -- it's real," Pederson said. "The way that stadium is designed and built, with that cover right there, everything is kind of right on top of you, and it's a great atmosphere."

Combine the effect the environment can have on an offense, the talent on Seattle's defense, a rookie quarterback and the fact that only four teams in the league have more false starts than the Eagles, and it's little wonder Pederson's plan this week is to spend more time practicing in the Eagles' indoor practice facility than he's ever done. He's taken the team inside on Fridays, but never Thursdays. Pederson is willing to sacrifice the luxury of using multiple fields outside to put his team inside. In a smaller space, the team has the ability to pump noise throughout practice in preparation.

We'll see if it pays off Sunday when Wentz and Co., who are 1-4 on the road this season, take the field.

-- James Palmer

Pederson wasn't missing out on special QB twice. Pederson traveled to Madison, Wisconsin, to work out Badgers quarterback Russell Wilson prior to the 2012 NFL Draft. After spending the day with Wilson, Pederson -- then the quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia -- left more than impressed.

"This guy is a special kid. He's got it," Pederson recalled thinking. "He's a pro's pro. He knows how to work, he knows how to practice, he knows how to lead."

Pederson was also impressed by Wilson as a person, specifically, his integrity as a man. Pederson remembered this week what he thought to himself on the way back to Philadelphia after the workout.

"If we didn't have an opportunity to take him, somebody was going to have a special player."

Andy Reid, then the head coach of the Eagles, had his eye on Wilson. Pete Carroll said this week the Seahawks were "sweating it out" as the draft went on in fear of missing out on Wilson. He didn't know the Eagles wanted Wilson so badly. Seattle selected Wilson in the third round with the 75th overall pick. Reid and the Eagles had the 88th pick and selected quarterback Nick Foles. Several teams actually called the Seahawks' war room after they selected Wilson -- but according to Carroll, Reid was the first. He called his old friend, Seahawks GM John Schneider, and gave him a hard time about picking the quarterback he and Pederson liked so much.

Four years later, Pederson's the head coach in Philadelphia. And he didn't have to nervously wait three rounds to see if he would get the quarterback he coveted. He selected his future franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz, No. 2 overall.

-- James Palmer

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PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Honoring a Hall of Fame coach. The Steelers announced an interesting initiative this week, creating a foundation named for Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll, to support continuing research and education about sports-related brain injuries. Steelers team president Art Rooney II spent about a year putting the pieces together, including selecting those who would sit on a national medical advisory panel who will decide which initiatives to fund.

Hall of Fame voting

The foundation sprang from the Steelers' desire to find the right way to honor Noll, who won four Super Bowls and died in 2014 at age 82. It was a conversation Noll had with the team's neurosurgeon in 1990 -- wanting to see what evidence the doctor had to explain why quarterback Bubby Brister had to miss a game with a concussion -- that led, ultimately, to the development of the ImPACT test, which is used in the NFL and other sports leagues around the world to monitor concussions. Noll was renowned for caring about the well-being of his players. In an interview before the season began, former NFL head coach Tony Dungy, who played for Noll, said concern for players' personal lives and their well-being after retirement is the most important lesson he learned from Noll. The doctor with whom Noll had that first conversation, Dr. Joseph Maroon, developed the ImPACT test with a partner, and will sit on a panel that will help evaluate which research programs the foundation will fund.

-- Judy Battista