Keenum Embracing Opportunity to be Starting QB

Posted Mar 8, 2016

QB Case Keenum knows there will be competition, but is looking forward to his chance to win the starting role for 2016.

In the last four games of 2015, quarterback Case Keenum helped lead the Rams to a 3-1 record with a more efficient offensive attack. The club was, conceivably, a blocked 48-yard overtime field goal away from beating San Francisco in Week 17 and finishing the season with four straight victories.

Keenum’s improvement coincided with the ascension of Rob Boras, who assumed the duties of offensive coordinator in Week 14 and will continue on in the role into next season. And now the quarterback has a chance to keep the partnership going, as Keenum is the incumbent starter heading into 2016.

It’s a designation that is significant to the signal-caller as he works through the offseason.

“This is the first time I’ve had a coach believe in me through the offseason like this, so I’m excited,” Keenum said last week at the team meeting in Manhattan Beach.

“The way I’ve always treated every offseason that I’ve been a part [of], is I’m going to treat it like I’m the starter. And that’s my mindset, is I’m going to get ready to play,” Keenum added. “The nice thing now is I’ve got some confidence and some coaches saying some things that they believe in the same things. So I’m going to believe in myself, continue being myself and my teammates, and continue to compete.”

The drive to compete will be important, since both head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead have said there will be a chance for another quarterback to unseat Keenum. There are internal options, such as second-year QB Sean Mannion -- who Fisher and Snead both praised at the Combine. But then the head coach also said it’s likely there will be another quarterback added to the roster, whether through trade, free agency, or the draft.

Keenum, however, is embracing the chance to show his mettle against anyone the Rams may put up against him. He said it’s the nature of the NFL that in each year, there are players coming in to take jobs. But Keenum’s journey in football has trained him to battle for each and every opportunity.

“I haven’t been handed anything,” he said. “I was a one-scholarship-offer [player] out of high school, out of college I was undrafted -- nothing’s been handed to me. I’ve worked extremely hard for anything that’s come my way. So I know I’m going to have to work extremely hard for anything that comes forward from this.”

“But competing within the team, with a good team spirit, I think, is great,” Keenum added. 
“At every position, I think you need that. It’s made me better.”

Given the team’s overall offensive performance in 2015, competition within the unit is a logical step. Despite the club’s improvement in the season’s final quarter, the Rams still finished No. 32 in both overall and passing offense -- a fact that continues to sting Keenum.

“I’m tired of hearing that the Rams were 32nd in passing, to be honest,” Keenum said. “I know a lot of our receivers and tight ends and the passing-game core -- that’s something we’re definitely striving to improve. Literally, the only way is up. That’s something where we demand excellence of ourselves and I think putting that excellent work in every day is going to pay off come fall.”

In a way, Keenum’s attitude illustrates how he wants to grow not only within the offense, but also the team as a whole.

“I want to be the leader this team needs me to be -- the leader that I know how to be,” Keenum said. “It’s not just on the field on Sundays, it’s not just on the field during the week of practice. It’s off the field, it’s in the meeting rooms, it’s in the training rooms, the weight rooms. It’s in the cafeteria talking to guys. So all those things are very important to me.”

Translating that chemistry built off the field into on-field success will be paramount for Los Angeles as the team heads into its 50th season in Southern California. And when it comes to Keenum, the quarterback has a strong sense of optimism for how both he and the team can perform in 2016.

“I’m excited about the position I’m in and the position the team is in,” Keenum said. “I think we’re poised to make that next step and be a playoff contender.”