In some cities, quarterbacks are battling for the starting job. In others, the fight is unfolding at a lower level on the depth chart.
In Houston, second-year signal-caller Case Keenum could be in the early stages of making a checkers-style series of jumps that could eventually put him in the starting job.
For now, Keenum could be supplanting T.J. Yates as the primary backup to Matt Schaub. And that would be no small feat, given that Yates led the Texans to the first playoff win in franchise history.
“Well they are two good football players, so it’s a nice problem for us,” coach Gary Kubiak told reporters on Saturday. “I think Case has come a long way. That has nothing to do with T.J. not doing something. I think T.J. is having a dang good camp. He’s a better player than he was the last couple of years. It’s just a very competitive situation for us right now and it’s going to make our team better. It’s making both of those guys better. It will help them in their careers, but it’s definitely making our team better.”
The praise comes a day after Keenum, undrafted from the University of Houston in 2012, completed 13 of 18 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings as the third quarterback in the game. The performance may have earned Keenum the No. 2 slot for the Texans’ next preseason game.
“We’re going to talk about that this week,” Kubiak said. “What I’m trying to do is get him and T.J. in the exact same situations as players with pretty much equal reps, so that’s something that may be a topic this week. They will continue to both play a great deal. It’s a very good battle going on and they both did a good job last night.”
Starter Matt Schaub, who’d be the next guy in the Abilene native’s sights, sees a night-and-day difference in Keenum after one year.
“It’s confidence,” Kubiak said. “It’s knowledge of what we’re doing. He’s just got a little swagger to him when he plays and that’s the way he played in college. I mean, he’s very confident. Doesn’t get caught with the ball. As a coach, you call a bad play and he makes it a good one. That’s just what he can do. I’ve never seen a guy smile so much when he plays football. He’s having a good time and he’s got a lot of confidence in what’s going on. You can tell how far he’s come in camp and obviously last night showed you that it’s continuing.”
Keenum’s confidence could be the thing that helps light a fire under Schaub. With men like quarterbacks coach Karl Dorrell and G.M. Rick Smith both saying in recent weeks that Schaub needs to step up in big moments, perhaps knowing that Keenum would be unfazed is the thing that will Schaub get to that point, too.
If not, the Texans could be the next team in the Lone Star State with a starting quarterback who didn’t hear his name called once during the draft.