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HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – It was interesting to hear rookie quarterback Case Keenum discuss what he has done since joining the Texans as a rookie free agent in terms of resume’ building.
Many of us feel like we know Keenum’s work history well having watched him grow from unheralded recruit at the University of Houston to the most prolific passer in NCAA history. His strengths and even weaknesses were always on display in the Cougars wide-open spread offense.
But most of us, and most importantly Texans coach Gary Kubiak, have gotten the chance to see some things from Keenum that we didn’t see in the quick-strike offense the Cougs ran. His arm strength is better than average, he has adjusted well to taking snaps under center and his 6-foot-1 stature is offset by his ability to absorb the sophisticated offense and to quickly decipher what the defense is giving him.
Let’s make no mistake, Keenum is still some years away being a can’t-miss NFL quarterback and there is a chance that day may never come. But he has made things interesting around the Texans camp this summer and he and six-year veteran John Beck have competed for the No.3 quarterback spot behind starter Matt Schaub and T.J. Yates.
The competition has been so surprisingly close that the two enter Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Minnesota Vikings in a virtual tie for what use to be a throw away job. Both quarterbacks will get plenty of opportunity for the first time this preseason to make their cases with Beck starting the game and Keenum set to play the second half while Schaub and Yates rest with most of the team’s top players.
Keenum knows this could be his last game in a Texans uniform, but he hopes he has shown enough that he will be on some NFL team’s active roster come Sept. 9.
“You’re putting your resume of yourself on film,” Keenum said. “That’s what I’m trying to do. You’re trying to make a team.
“If it doesn’t work out here, there’s going to be spots available, whether the numbers game doesn’t work or whatever it is.”
As with all guys competing for third team spots, Keenum has had to do a lot with few opportunities. Keenum, who broke nearly every important passing record in college football, has completed 3 of 6 passes for 53 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions in two preseason appearances.
His most impressive work has had to come away from the public glare in practices and team meetings. But even he isn’t quite sure how a resume with so little on it will be judged come Friday when Kubiak pars the roster down to the NFL-mandated 53 players.
“I think it’s short. Hopefully short but sweet,” Keenum said when asked what kind of resume he thinks he has put together. “I’ve still got a long way to go. It’s hard to judge with just the few snaps we’ve had.
“I think one thing I have shown, is progression is getting better. From where I started, to just getting my playbook, to just kind of being in awe of how thick it was and then now turning it back in and not having all of it in my head; from going week-to-week and continuing to grow, I think that’s been a huge plus.”
Normally there wouldn’t be much thought put into who the third team quarterback on an NFL roster will be. But this is a kind of big deal because of what Keenum did in college in the Texans own back yard and because Yates went from the non-dressing No.3 spot to the quarterback that not only got the Texans into the playoffs for the first time but also guided them to a first round win last season as a rookie.
The assumption when the Texans added Keenum to the roster after the NFL Draft was the ex-Cougar would land on the practice squad where he would be given a chance to develop into an NFL quarterback. Someone forgot to inform Keenum of that as he went out with the mindset he was competing for Schaub’s job from OTAs on.
Next thing anyone knew, there he was competing toe-to-toe with Beck, a man who has played in nine NFL games during his career and who started three games last season for the Washington Redskins, whose offense is very similar to the Texans.
Keenum could still end up on the Texans practice squad if he doesn’t make it and clears waivers but as of right now it seems like he remains in the thick of a competition too close to call.
“They’ve both done their job in camp,” Kubiak said. “Two totally different guys; I’m talking about a veteran that’s had some experience, some starting time, so do we go that direction or do we go with the young man that looks like he’s got a bright future ahead of him? That’s probably the toughest thing. But they both handle what we’ve done fine, and Case has come a long way.”
Conventional wisdom seems to favor keeping Beck, despite the fact he hasn’t blown anyone away in camp. But he is experienced and the Texans could need an insurance policy with signs Yates could suffer from a sophomore jinx. Beck is fairly familiar with the offense and much of the terminology having played for Kubiak’s mentor Mike Shanahan and his son and Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who has coached on the Texans staff.
Still he is up in the air about what will happen after Thursday night’s game as Keenum.
“That’s up to the coaches,” said Beck, who has completed 4 of 6 passes for 46 yards in his lone preseason appearance. “I want to do the very best I can with every opportunity I get so I can make this football team. That’s my goal right now is to be a Houston Texan.”
Not surprisingly, Keenum has that same goal as he heads into what could be the deciding factor Thursday night.
“I’m excited. I think it’s a heck of an opportunity,” he said. “There’s a lot of guys out there that don’t get something like this. I’ve jumped at every opportunity I’ve got, whether it’s small or big. I think this is definitely one of the biggest one’s I’ve had, so I’m really excited.”