Patric Schneider/Associated Press
Coach O'Brien said recently that the race for the starting quarterback position is still wide open and that each quarterback will get an equal number of snaps for the foreseeable future. Despite that, I would still bet that Ryan Fitzpatrick is the starter in Week 1 against the Washington Redskins.
Via Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle, Bill O'Brien talked about when he might name a starter:
Whether it’s two weeks from now, three weeks from now, two months from now...we’ll make a determination on who gets the most reps to get them ready for the game. But we’re not there right now. We’ve got to continue to give these guys an equal amount of reps to give them an equal shot.
Right now the Texans have four quarterbacks on the roster, but I expect them to cut or trade one before the start of the season. If forced to guess who that will be, I'd bet on T.J. Yates by process of elimination. Fitzpatrick was brought in to be the veteran leader, Tom Savage is the future developmental quarterback, and Case Keenum costs the team nearly nothing after being signed as an undrafted free agent.
With the list narrowed down to three players, the Texans will start Fitzpatrick until they feel Savage is ready and won't get overwhelmed, or if the team feels the season start to slip away with a losing record at the bye week. If the Texans are 3-6 or worse going into their bye in Week 10, expect to see Savage as their starter for the first game out of the break.
I don't think Fitzpatrick is an upgrade over Matt Schaub. I say that with a view of Schaub's entire career and not just last season. Fitzpatrick has started all 16 games just twice during his career and threw 39 interceptions over those two seasons.
We all know what Fitzpatrick's ceiling is, and considering that he'll turn 32 years old during the season, he can't be considered the team's future at the position. With that in mind, it would be in the team's best interest to give both Keenum and Savage meaningful snaps during training camp, the preseason and the regular season to determine if either player is worth building around as a franchise quarterback.
However, Keenum will most likely spend the majority of the season as the third-string quarterback. Coach O'Brien has said before that he values a quarterback with a quick mind who can process information and get rid of the ball on time.
When Keenum struggled over the final five games last year, one of his biggest issues was not identifying targets who came open underneath early in the play while staring down the deep threats, and that caused him to hold onto the ball too long. With what Keenum showed in college and on the field late in the season last year, I don't think he fits the mold of what Coach O'Brien wants from the position. I would like to see him get a shot, but that's my guess.
Savage has better physical tools than any quarterback on the roster, so he'll be given every opportunity to win the job, but expect Fitzpatrick to be named the starter for at least the early portion of the regular season. Of the quarterbacks currently on the roster, Savage is the future, but he's not ready just yet. Until he is, expect Fitzpatrick to be the starter.