Column: Rams’ Case Keenum looks more like a starter than Jared Goff
Competition? What competition?
At the moment, the so-called position battle between Case Keenum and Jared Goff is about as competitive as Secretariat against the field at the Belmont Stakes.
Or Mike Tyson’s 91-second blowout of Michael Spinks.
Or a hammer against a nail.
You get the idea.
Two games into the exhibition season, Keenum has established himself as a clear-cut leader to be the Rams’ starting quarterback against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1.
This isn’t to say the Rams made a mistake by trading up to the first overall pick to draft Goff. Nor does it mean Goff won’t develop into the kind of franchise player the Rams envision.
It just means he’s not ready.
Maybe Goff will experience a eureka moment in the three weeks between now and the season opener. Maybe everything will suddenly click for him.
Most likely, it won’t.
The last five rookie quarterbacks selected with the top overall pick in the draft started for their teams in the season opener – Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Jameis Winston. There’s no shame in breaking tradition. It’s what best for Goff and it’s what best for the Rams.
In the absence of an unexpected development, Keenum offers the Rams an unspectacular but stable alternative.
Watching Keenum in the first three weeks of training camp and watching him in the first two games of the exhibition season, it’s obvious the fifth-year quarterback is a pro.
He might not make a Pro Bowl, but he also won’t make any silly mistakes. Coach Jeff Fisher can start him and know a certain level of competence will be guaranteed.
He was solid in the preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys, completing six of seven passes. He was solid again Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs, taking the Rams down the field on two touchdown drives.
Keenum displayed his experience on his third play from scrimmage, when receiver Kenny Britt gained a half-step on Chiefs free safety Ron Parker. Keenum launched the football toward Britt, resulting in a pass interference call on Parker and a 41-yard gain.
“He read it out and let it fly,” Fisher said. “Good things happen when you do that.”
Keenum completed four of five passes against the Chiefs.
He showed maturity again in the postgame news conference when he was asked about his competition with Goff.
“I’m just playing football, man,” Keenum said. “I don’t think about anything. That’s your guys’ job. You’ll go write about it and talk about it and dissect everything. For me, if I’m totally honest, the opinions that matter for me are in this locker room, that’s my teammates and coaches. I’m trying to do the best I can.”
Again, no fireworks, but professional.
This might be enough for lead the Rams to some wins, considering they have Todd Gurley in the backfield.
Gurley was on the field for only the first drive, but offered a preview of what the Rams offense could look like in the regular season. The Rams ran six plays from scrimmage on that possession and four of them were runs by Gurley.
“Everything unfolds off of that,” Fisher said of the running game.
What that means for the quarterback: Ride Gurley, make plays on third down, don’t make mistakes.
Particularly the kinds of mistakes Goff has made in his first two games.
On his second snap against the Cowboys, Goff failed to see a blitzing linebacker, absorbed a helmet to his ribs and fluttered a pass that was intercepted.
Goff looked similarly flustered Saturday, again turning the ball over on his second snap. This time, he stepped up to avoid a rush, only to trip on the foot of guard Cody Wichmann.
“I was going to run,” Goff said.
There was another fumble on the Rams’ following possession, when Goff rolled to the sideline. Instead of throwing away the ball, Goff absorbed a hit and fumbled out of bounds for a seven-yard loss.
“I was trying to throw it,” Goff said. “I don’t know if it was a fumble or incomplete pass.”
Goff orchestrated the winning drive in the fourth quarter, which he punctuated with a 10-yard touchdown pass to running back Malcolm Brown.
In the wake of the uneven performance, Goff was asked if he felt he had to make up ground on Keenum.
“I’m just worried about what I’m doing and myself,” he said. “Case has played well and Case is doing a great job, but at the same time, I’m not going to be concerned with him. I need to focus on myself and continue to get better because there are things I need to work on.”
And in the meantime, Keenum should start.
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - AUG. 20, 2016. The Rams defense forces a fumble by Chiefs quarterback Aaron Murray in the fourth quarter on a game at the Coliseum on Aug. 20.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Rams wideout Pharoh Cooper, left, congratulates running back Todd Gurley after scoring a touchdown against the Chiefs in the first quarter of a game on Aug. 20.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Rams quarterback Jared Goff looks for a receiver downfield against the Chiefs during the second quarter of a game at the Coliseum on Aug. 20.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Rams tight end Justice Cunningham makes a catch against Chiefs linebacker Dadi Nicolas in the fourth quarter of a game at the Coliseum on Aug. 20.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Rams running back Benny Cunningham looks for room to run against the Chiefs during the first quarter of a game on Aug. 20.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Chiefs running back Spencer Ware tries to split the Rams’ defense during the second quarter of a game at the Coliseum on Aug. 20.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Rams running back Malcolm Brown looks for room to run against the Chiefs during the second quarter of a game on Aug 20.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Rams running back Malcolm Brown tries to plow through the Chiefs’ defense during the first quarter of a game on Aug. 20.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Rams running back Malcolm Brown scores a touchdown against the Chiefs during the fourth quarter of a game on Aug. 20.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill makes a catch against the Rams during the third quarter of a game at the Coliseum on Aug. 20.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Follow Dylan Hernandez on Twitter @dylanohernandez
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