October 28, 2016

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) If Jared Goff can avoid an NFL pass rush as gracefully as he dodges questions about his playing time, the Los Angeles Rams' quarterback of the future will be a star.

The Rams (3-4) still have no idea whether Goff has true star potential because the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft hasn't played a snap as they hit their bye week.

As the newness of the Rams' homecoming wears off, Goff's holding pattern has become the most compelling theme of another .500 season for a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs since 2004.

''I'm confident in myself,'' Goff said this week after running the Rams' first-team offense in practice. ''I'm confident in what I can do. I feel like if my numbers get called, I'll be ready, but it's not up to me to decide what that time is.''

Case Keenum has played all seven games for the Rams, and he will be their starter next weekend against Carolina. Few people suggest the steady Keenum is the main reason for the Rams' wins or losses. But not even coach Jeff Fisher believes Keenum will suddenly lead a transformation in the NFL's 30th-ranked offense, which has struggled for consistency from everyone - even running back Todd Gurley, the 2015 Offense Rookie of the Year.

Los Angeles has lost three straight after a 3-1 start, and Keenum threw four interceptions in last week's loss to the Giants in London. But Fisher remains steadfast in his decision to take his time with his prize draft acquisition, even while his team hovers near mediocrity yet again after four straight losing seasons under his watch.

''You just kind of wonder at some point, this thing is going to get turned around,'' Fisher said this week, turning a question into an answer. ''That's where we are right now, is holding on to hope that the health of this football team, and the experience, is going to get it turned around.''

While fellow rookie quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott are becoming stars, Goff still hasn't touched the field near the midway point of his first NFL season. He doesn't betray a trace of frustration publicly, instead focusing on his work with the scout team and spending his Sundays at Keenum's shoulder.

''It's part of the process, part of what's going on,'' Goff said. ''I'm not going to sit here and complain or gripe. I'm going to support Case, and continue to get ready and be ready, and continue to be confident in myself and be ready when the time comes.''

With a chance to run the first-team offense in practice before the Rams split for their bye weekend, Goff looked confident and comfortable. He has been Keenum's backup for the past six weeks on a team that only dresses two quarterbacks on game day, which proves Fisher's contention he would be comfortable if Goff had to play.

''We wouldn't scale anything back,'' Fisher said. ''We wouldn't change a thing. He's got that good of a feel for what we're doing.''

So why isn't Goff playing already, if it's inevitable? Fisher simply doesn't think it's time yet.

Goff played three college seasons in California's spread offense, which bears scant resemblance to an NFL scheme, and he just turned 22 years old this month. He is adjusting to adulthood fairly well, but preparing for the pro game is even tougher.

''The time schedule is probably a little bit more (demanding) than college was, as far as time commitment,'' Goff said. ''But I talked to my friends, they're in midterms right now, and I get to come out here and play football every day. So it's good.''

Keenum's inconsistencies pale in comparison to the running game's struggles. Gurley is seventh in the NFC with 403 yards rushing, but he's managing just 3.0 yards per carry, the lowest average among the conference's top 24 ball carriers.

Yet there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic heading toward the holidays: Los Angeles' defense has been largely outstanding in a series of tough games, and its special teams have been nearly flawless.

And though they're back below .500, the Rams will have every opportunity to make a move. Their four November opponents are a combined 8-18, and they play five of their final nine regular-season games at the Coliseum after a year filled with difficult travel.

''We have a great opportunity, and it starts with the next opponent,'' Fisher said.

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