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2016 Rams Roster Preview: Case Keenum A Schrodinger’s Quarterback

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He’s both the starter AND the backup for the Rams

New Era Style Lounge - Friday February 5, 2016 Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for New Era

The incumbent LA Rams starting QB (for now, according to Jeff Fisher) is a Curious Case, indeed. With QB Nick Foles not part of the Rams’ plans moving forward, Keenum is the only QB with any NFL starting experience (16 games). And, he’s a "bridge" QB who is clearly keeping the seat warm for 1st overall pick Jared Goff. How did Keenum find himself in this situation? Deep breath...

After an illustrious college career, where he set multiple NCAA passing records, Keenum started his career with the Houston Texans in 2012 as an undrafted free agent. On the smaller side for an NFL QB at 6’1 205, he spent time on their practice squad in 2012 and 2013 before being promoted to the active roster. He went 0-8 as a starter (the Texans were quite bad), but showed some promise as a capable backup in the NFL.

In 2014 he was waived by the Texans, and claimed by the Rams. He spent most of the season on the Rams’ practice squad before being signed to Houston’s 53-man (Gary Kubiak really liked this guy). He played in the Texans’ final two games, both wins.

Not to be outdone, Les Snead gave the Texans a 7th round pick in March 2015 to end the tug of war match between teams. After beating Austin Davis and rookie Sean Mannion, Keenum was named the backup behind starter Nick Foles, whom the Rams also acquired by trade from the Eagles in their plan to jettison Sam Bradford and his 2015 salary.

After a 4-5 start and three straight games of 200 or fewer yards passing, Foles was benched for Keenum. Late in the 4th quarter of his first start, Keenum suffered a concussion but was allowed to remain in the game. The Rams got in some hot water for mishandling the situation, as Keenum wasn’t going to come out willfully.

Keenum failed the NFL concussion protocol, missing the next two games. He returned on December 13th and led the Rams to three straight wins before losing the finale to the 49er’s. He finished the season 3-2 as a starter with 828 yards, 4 TD’s and 1 INT.

Thanks, Wikipedia.

Roster Battle

It’s clear that the Rams like Keenum, and he will (by all evidence) start training camp in late July as the 1st team quarterback. Jared Goff is technically his backup as I type this, but that could change quickly if Goff has a head-turning training camp and preseason.

Behind Keenum, there is second-year pro Mannion, who is being groomed as a long-term backup option, and not much else (Foles is not being considered based on Fisher’s comments). It’s down to Keenum vs. Goff as starter. Hard Knocks will give us a prime seat.

Expectations

Keenum was tendered at a 1st round level this off season as a restricted free agent, so the Rams are keeping him around for at least one year. But after this year, he’s a free agent.

He’s both the Rams’ starter and backup, putting him a Schrodinger’s paradox. Will he start game 1? Who knows? Will he play 16 games and Goff will sit and learn this year? Who knows? But he will be on the team.

It all depends on the arbitrary question: is Goff capable of winning more games as a rookie than Keenum? We want to believe so, but then again remember Keenum was almost 5-0 and a top 10 QB by some metrics.

Chances of Making The Final Roster (10/10)

Keenum is safe, due to his relative starting experience and the fact that the Rams like what he did in the games he started last year. In the five games he started, the Rams lost two games by a combined six points (two missed FG’s).

You don’t tender a player as a 1st rounder unless you can’t afford to lose him. In the Rams case, they didn’t want to go into the season with zero experience. That is smart.