How Can the Texans Help Case Keenum Succeed?

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How Can the Texans Help Case Keenum Succeed?
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Based on the circumstances, Case Keenum was pretty darn good against the Kansas City Chiefs inside Arrowhead Stadium in Week 7—now how do the Houston Texans get a similar performance from the former third-string quarterback making his second NFL start in Week 9 against the Indianapolis Colts?

The Houston Texans' 2013 season hangs in the balance.

No big deal.

In the 17-16 loss to the Chiefs, Keenum completed 15-of-25 passes for 271 yards (10.8 yards-per-attempt) with a touchdown and no interceptions.

Really, it was quite the professional debut.

While at the University of Houston, Keenum shredded defenses at an historic rate. He's the NCAA's all-time leader in completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns.

For more specific perspective on how prolific Keenum was—he averaged 402.2 yards, 3.42 touchdowns and .35 interceptions per game for the Cougars as a senior.

Yeah, craziness.

Why are his college days relevant?

Because, quite logically, Houston's coaching staff should attempt to recreate the collegiate system Keenum thrived in to the best of its ability.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

If doing so was easy, there's no way Keenum would have gone undrafted in 2011.

During the combine that year, NFL.com wrote the following about his glaring, potential weakness: "He could be considered the product of an effective, high-octane collegiate spread offense."

But integrating some quick, yards-after-the-catch concepts from the spread and pistol formations are not totally out of the question in today's NFL. In fact, more teams are adding "collegiate" wrinkles to their offensive game plans than ever before.

The Texans laid out an amazing blueprint for Keenum to succeed at the NFL level in the outing against the Chiefs two weeks ago.

They kept it simple by giving the inexperienced quarterback short, one-read throws to start the game, utilizing plenty of play action—which is Houston's offensive staple regardless of who the quarterback is—and prominently featuring Andre Johnson.

Keenum's first pass against Kansas City was a glowing example of the blueprint put together.

Notice how everything looks like a stretch run to the right and how Johnson, arguably one of the five best receivers in the NFL, comes back to the football for an easy pitch-and-catch with blockers in front.

His second throw was a bit more risky—a play-action bootleg to the right with a backside downfield throw to tight end Garrett Graham—but at least it got the entire Chiefs defense moving in one direction to create space for Keenum.

Sure, he was hit as he threw, but the idea behind the play call was logical.

Near the end of the first quarter, the Texans again kept Keenum in his comfort zone and added a play-action fake to hold the defense just long enough.

Keenum's eyes immediately locked onto DeVier Posey in the middle of the field. The throw was high percentage and got the wideout the ball with space around him.

The result was a confidence-building 42-yard gain.

Back to Andre Johnson, though.

If the Colts want to stay away from zone coverage, so be it.

The 6'3'', 230-pound 32-year-old wideout is still a fantastic man-beating option for Houston, as evidenced on this big-gainer with Brandon Flowers in coverage.

Keenum looked Johnson's way upon receiving the snap, hit the former All-Pro in stride, and he was off to the races.

At that point, the Texans' young quarterback was relatively comfortable.

All of Keenum's passes weren't short and simple, however.

He made an assortment of nice touch throws down the field and did take five sacks. The final one resulted in a fumble which ended the game.

Against the Colts, a team with a strong but certainly vulnerable secondary and a sound man-coverage cornerback in Vontae Davis, the Texans have to stick with their Kansas City game plan.

Make Keenum feel as if he's back in college.

Give him a variety of short throws against zone. Have faith in Andre Johnson—and DeAndre Hopkins to a degree—in one-on-one situations against man coverage.

Keep a few extra blockers back to keep the pocket relatively clean.

Run the football. Often.

If the Houston Texans can properly execute the Keenum-tailored offensive attack against the Indianapolis Colts, they very well may pull off an upset that could save their season.

 

Follow @ChrisTrapasso

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