Rams Keeping Options Open at QB

Posted Feb 25, 2016

Head coach Jeff Fisher has said Case Keenum will be the incumbent starter heading into next season, but there will be others -- including Sean Mannion -- to compete for that role.

INDIANAPOLIS -- It’s no secret the Rams passing game was poor in 2015. The club finished No. 32 in yards per game, and it’s been an expected point of emphasis for Los Angeles to improve upon that mark going forward.

There are plenty of avenues by which to accomplish that goal, but a significant factor will be achieving stability at the quarterback position while continuing to perform well defensively.

“Over that 2012-to-2015 period, we’ve given up -- on average -- about 20 points a game, which is about [No.] 12 of all NFL teams,” general manager Les Snead said Thursday. “In [three] of those seasons … we’ve had two guys actually start [at quarterback] -- sometimes three. So I think getting consistency at that position is one thing. Finding good players is another.”

As for the quarterbacks currently on the roster, Snead gave Case Keenum credit for helping the team to a 3-1 record in the last quarter of the 2015 season.

“We had gone on a five-game losing streak and he goes 3-1 down the [stretch]. So he stabilized us,” Snead said. “So that’s a start there. And we do like what Case brought to the table. That’s why we traded for him last year to bring him back.”

“Looking at Case’s body of work, I thought Case finished strong,” head coach Jeff Fisher said Wednesday. “Case has won some games. He’s an overtime blocked kick at San Francisco and an incomplete pass away from maybe winning all five. So Case is excited about the opportunity to come in and hang on to that job. But there’s going to be competition.”

Fisher has maintained since the end of the regular season that Nick Foles and Sean Mannion will have their opportunities to unseat Keenum. But this week, he said there will likely be another signal-caller coming from outside the organization.

“There’s probably a good chance there’s going to be another one at camp -- if not two,” Fisher said. “And I can’t say whether that comes through the draft, through free agency, or through trade. But that’s a position that we look to upgrade.”

While the NFL Combine provides the opportunity to look at incoming rookies, Mannion has a chance to show he’s developed into an internal upgrade after going through the same process a year ago.

Snead said second-year quarterbacks who sit in their rookie season can often get overlooked because, “all the new guys who we’re covering at the Combine are kind of the sexy, new objects, and they get talked about. But a guy like Sean Mannion is right now somewhere on this planet trying to get better. And he’s got a goal in mind to start in this league, and that’s what he’s doing where these guys are just getting started.”

“I’m really excited about what Sean can do,” Fisher said. “We looked really hard at him and we looked at the guys last year, I think we got him kind of pegged.”

After the 2015 preseason, Mannion’s only playing time came in a few late-game snaps in the Nov. 29 loss to the Bengals. In that contest, the Oregon State product completed six of his seven passes for 31 yards.

Mannion’s limited action was in part to aid his development. Speaking generally about rookie quarterbacks, Fisher said easing a QB into the league is ideal because of the position’s difficulty.

“In a perfect world, you’ve got to give a young player a chance to develop so the game slows down for him,” Fisher said. “It’s not easy. You can handle your stuff against air in rookie minicamp, and you can handle your stuff in OTAs, and you can handle your stuff in the third quarter, fourth quarter of a preseason game because the talent level is probably not what it was in the first quarter. And then all of a sudden, when the lights come on, it’s hard. It’s a hard position to play.”

Because of that, Snead believes plenty of growth can occur between Year 1 and Year 2 for a quarterback. And the general manager said he thinks Mannion has the potential to develop into a consistent starter based on his traits.

“He’s got a nice skill set, came from a pro-style offense, so doing what we do in the NFL doesn’t overwhelm him,” Snead said. “He can do things pre-snap, get the ball out quickly. He’s less mobile than most, but he was probably that way in high school, so he’s learned to get the ball out quick. That’s his mobility.

“I call it from freshman to sophomore year, there’s a big jump in a lot of different things -- experience, confidence,” Snead continued. “You’re not the new kid. You’re not just trying to figure out where your locker is. You actually are trying to go out and help get first downs. So, yes, you can do that.”

And so as the Rams continue to look for ways to revitalize their passing game, finding the right starting quarterback will not be the only factor that determines success.

But as Snead said himself, “I think getting the QB position stabilized -- and by that I mean not having to go two and three in a single season -- would definitely help.”