When T.J. Yates was traded to the Atlanta Falcons for linebacker Akeem Dent, no one was happier than Keenum. Yates was his main challenger in the quarterback pecking order, and now he was off to another team.
By all appearances, Keenum had locked in the backup quarterback spot. Tom Savage had the build, but Keenum had the resume if their performances in training camp needed a tiebreaker.
Bill O’Brien named Ryan Fitzpatrick the starter weeks ago. Keenum has not admitted to have any designs on unseating Fitzpatrick. He told John McClain of the Houston Chronicle just after Yates was traded (subscription required), "I've got to prove myself every day."
Keenum may be a man of faith, but he is no innocent in football matters. Once NFL defenses learned to keep him in the pocket, the fast start in his first three games of 2013 turned into a steep decline over the next five. The result was a 0-8 record as a starter and nothing but bench time in the last three games of the season.
Capt. Ron of the Battle Red Blog gave a fine encapsulation of why Keenum came up winless:
Case Keenum struggled last season after being 'forced' into a scheme that was mostly a mismatch to Keenum's strengths. He had very little support around him with poor pass-protection and the absence of an effective running game due to injuries. The Texans also had to play from behind in most games where they abandoned the run completely.
It is presumed there will be more support this season in the form of running the ball and O-line play. Keenum also has to get better at making the quick read so he can get rid of the ball on time.
His struggles in training camp are understandable as he tries to assimilate the concepts of a new offense. The second round of two-a-days proved to be unkind to Keenum:
According to Texans analyst John Harris, Keenum has not progressed past his legendary days at the University of Houston. In his “21 Training Camp Observations: Day 2,” Harris made a Freudian slip when he observed, “Keenum might be the best ‘back shoulder’ college quarterback I've seen and he made one of those throws to Keshawn Martin during 7-on-7 as well.”
The ability to make back-shoulder throws does not define an NFL quarterback, as Harris knows. It starts with making the right pre-snap reads, and in the case of Bill O’Brien’s offense, calling out the offensive line protections as well.
Keenum still has a bit of the gunslinger in him and needs to temper that quality into a more disciplined approach. One that does as well late in the game as it does early. With Keenum at the controls in 2013, the Houston scored 95 points in the first half and 58 in the second.
If all this proves to be too much for Keenum, the Texans have first call on players released by other teams. By the end of August, a lot of names will be floating around who might prove a better fit.
There is a month and four preseason games for Keenum to make certain no one considers that the right move.
Advanced stats via Pro Football Focus (subscription required).