His rookie season included a nine-game wait to get on the field, and a seven-game stretch in survival mode once he finally got under center.
Throughout it, Rams quarterback Jared Goff leaned at times on Case Keenum, the journeyman veteran he competed against and eventually supplanted.
Now, after last season’s nightmare finish, both are enjoying success.
Goff has led the Rams to a 7-2 record.
Keenum has engineered five consecutive victories for the 7-2 Minnesota Vikings, who play host to the Rams on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Goff said Wednesday that he recently sent Keenum a text.
“We’re both excited for it,” Goff said of the matchup. “It’ll be fun. … There’s not a guy you could be more happy for.”
Keenum, 29, signed with the Vikings as a free agent, ostensibly to be Sam Bradford’s backup while Teddy Bridgewater continued his recovery from a 2016 season-ending knee surgery.
Keenum stepped in after Bradford suffered a knee injury. Bridgewater has since returned, but Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday that Keenum would start against the Rams.
That gives Keenum the opportunity to duel with the 23-year-old Goff, who has passed for 16 touchdowns, with four interceptions, in first-year coach Sean McVay’s offense.
Keenum said he was “pumped” for Goff and the success he was enjoying.
“You knew he was talented when he showed up in the building,” Keenum said, “and to see him come into his own and doing what he’s done has been really cool to watch.”
But could he have envisioned playing against each other on 7-2 teams?
“It’s a funny game and, you know, it’s a crazy business,” Keenum said, “but that’s what makes this so cool.”
This season, with McVay calling plays and an improved offensive line and receiving corps, he has elevated his performance.
Goff has passed for seven touchdowns, without a turnover, in the last two games.
He passed for three touchdowns and a career-best 355 yards in Sunday’s 33-7 victory over the Houston Texans.
“It looks like he’s a lot more comfortable in the things that they’re doing offensively,” Zimmer said. “Getting the ball out quick to the right place. Pressure doesn’t seem to faze him.”
Keenum also is thriving. He is completing 65% of his passes, 11 for touchdowns, with five interceptions.
“What you do see on tape is a very good, efficient football player,” McVay said. “Makes good decisions, can kind of change that launch point, athletic and I think he’s been a big reason why they’ve been one of the top units offensively in this league so far.”
Goff said he learned from Keenum on and off the field.
“The No. 1 thing that he kind of imparted: He wasn’t super highly touted coming out of college and he made his career by working hard,” Goff said. “That hard work is something I tried to grasp as much as I could and pick up little pieces here and there.”
Said Keenum: “He could have had anybody in that room and he’d be doing well. I’m glad I got to see a little bit of it and maybe pass on a few things here and there.”
Offensive lineman Rodger Saffold (ankle), tight end Derek Carrier, safety Lamarcus Joyner (hip), cornerback Troy Hill (shoulder), and linebackers Connor Barwin (knee) and Matt Longacre (back) did not participate in practice. Linebacker Robert Quinn (illness) was limited. Offensive linemen Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan and linebacker Mark Barron did not participate because of scheduled rest. ... The Rams signed offensive linemen Jake Eldrenkamp and Jeremiah Poutasi to the practice squad. Receiver Paul McRoberts was placed on the practice squad injured list. … For the second time this season, Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein was named the NFC special teams player of the week. Zuerlein kicked four field goals against the Texans. He has made 28 of 29 field-goal attempts and leads the league with 114 points.
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