The St. Louis Rams waited patiently to make an addition at quarterback after losing starter Sam Bradford for the season. On Monday, they made their move by claiming quarterback Case Keenum off waivers from the Houston Texans.
ESPN.com Rams reporter Nick Wagoner and Texans reporter Tania Ganguli discuss what the Rams are getting in Keenum and what Keenum's role will be in St. Louis.
Wagoner: Tania, I remember chatting with you before the Rams and Texans played last year and you mentioned the local push for hometown favorite Case Keenum to be the starter. Coincidentally, he took over that job after the Rams beat up on the Texans and went on to start eight more games. Now he's a Ram after they claimed him on waivers Monday afternoon. You saw every one of Keenum's starts. What are the Rams getting in their new backup quarterback?
Ganguli: They are getting a quarterback who knows what he needs to do but struggles to do it.
Keenum’s remarkable college career made him a lot of fans locally, but he spent all of his rookie year on the Texans’ practice squad before making the roster last season. The Texans’ quarterback situation was incredibly strange last season. By the time Keenum became the starter, the Texans' season was in such a spiral then-coach Gary Kubiak wanted something to spark his team.
That’s the positive with Keenum. He has moxie (Wade Phillips’ word, and I liked it). He was probably the best natural leader in the Texans’ quarterback room last season. He can lift a team emotionally. The problem is a lot of the rest of the responsibilities. In his early starts, it took opposing defensive coordinators until halftime to decipher Keenum. In his second start, he threw three touchdown passes to Andre Johnson to give the Texans an astonishing 21-3 lead over the Indianapolis Colts at halftime. They lost that game 27-24. By his later starts, opponents had enough film to shut him down from the start.
His main issue is handling pressure. His first instinct is to run away from it. He went backward for sacks more than any other quarterback in the NFL last season. In college he was very successful improvising and using his legs, but he hasn’t adjusted to the idea that it doesn’t work the same way in the pros. Don’t get me wrong -- every so often his improvisation led to a terrific play. He just expects it too often.
He doesn’t have trouble reading defenses; he has trouble reacting and making the right decisions once he has. A few times last season, a dejected Keenum noted that he knew what he was supposed to do, he just didn’t think to do it in time. His internal clock also needs work and he holds on to the ball too long when he tries to make plays.
Keenum’s fan base in Houston still exists, though it has begun to acknowledge that he’s struggled. The Rams’ situation is an interesting one for him, with starter Sam Bradford out with a torn ACL. What kind of situation do you see this being for him?
NW: The Rams mean it when they say they are committed to Shaun Hill as the starter. I think it would take something pretty drastic in terms of his performance or an injury for that to change. That means Keenum is coming in to serve in a backup role behind Hill. The Rams are keeping Austin Davis on the roster as well, bringing the total quarterbacks on the 53 to three. Davis has been around for three years and knows the system, so there's no reason to rush Keenum into trying to become the primary backup right away. After Keenum settles in, perhaps he pushes Davis for the No. 2 job behind Hill. But that's unlikely to happen right away. The Rams don't view Keenum as any sort of long-term replacement for Bradford, but they'd certainly welcome a young quarterback who could provide some depth beyond just this season.