Los Angeles Rams running back Benny Cunningham, left, tosses to defensive back Cody Davis during a punt return during the first half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) Jared Goff nearly made his NFL debut Sunday after starting quarterback Case Keenum bruised his non-throwing hand during the Los Angeles Rams' fourth consecutive loss.
''I said, `Jared, get warmed up, get ready,''' Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Monday. ''He said, `Coach, I'm ready.' I said, `I know you are.'''
But when Keenum determined he could continue, the NFL's No. 1 overall draft pick remained rooted to the Los Angeles bench, where he has stayed for the entire first half of his rookie year. The Rams subsequently lost their fourth straight game, falling to 3-5 in a season that could be slipping away.
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Fisher believes Goff is ready to play if needed, but he still doesn't expect his prized pick to make his debut soon, despite the ''We want Goff!'' chants that echoed down from the Coliseum stands, imploring the Rams to see what they've got.
Keenum will start again this weekend when the Rams visit the similarly struggling New York Jets (3-6).
''I know everybody wants to talk about it, and that's the big question,'' Fisher said. ''He's going to play. Whether it's the following week or the following week, it's eventually going to happen. Big-picture, as I keep saying, this is about making sure he's ready to go out there and be sharp and give us a chance to win.''
But the Rams haven't won since Oct. 2, largely due to an offense that's showing few signs of progress lately. Other than a solid effort in a loss at Detroit last month, the Rams' offense hasn't cracked 20 points since September. They got a meager one touchdown and 10 points apiece in the last two games from a unit ranked 31st in total offense with just 311.5 yards per game.
Although his passer rating is a pedestrian 77.2, ranking him 29th among players with at least 100 pass attempts this season, Keenum has been neither spectacular nor terrible most weeks. He has been just solid enough to allow Fisher to make a persuasive argument that Keenum isn't the Rams' biggest problem.
Todd Gurley and the running game are largely unable to move the ball, and they're currently sitting 30th in the NFL with just 77.2 yards per game after Gurley's 48-yard performance against Carolina. A standout quarterback can prevent defenses from focusing on the running game, but repeatedly playing with a deficit has forced Los Angeles to abandon the ground attack early, which means Gurley has just 41 carries in the last three games.
Fisher claims he understands the fans' eagerness and the logic behind their urgency, but the inert offensive effort against Carolina didn't change his mind. He also rejected the notion that the Rams won't turn to Goff unless they're out of the playoff race later this season. The Rams haven't made the playoffs since 2004 or had a winning record since 2003.
''I don't think the playoff contention (metric) is fair to the football team,'' Fisher said. ''Our expectations are we're going to stay in it, so we'll see. I'm not ruling out the possibility that he'll make a playoff run for us as well. But for right now, Case is starting, and we're going to New York.''
Fisher also has no public concerns about his contract status. The veteran coach's deal is up this season, and owner Stan Kroenke has made no public announcement about Fisher's future after four straight losing seasons with the club.
''I'm not uncomfortable at all,'' Fisher said. ''I'm uncomfortable because I didn't expect to be 3-and-whatever we are, but I'm not uncomfortable at all. I never look over my shoulder. We're moving on. Stan and I are on the same page. He understands what we've been through. He's as disappointed as I am with the losses, two or three points, seven points, in the last three games. He understands that we're competitive and we're doing everything we possibly can to get this turned around.''
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