Case Keenum has a clear path to becoming the Redskins’ starting quarterback.
With Colt McCoy watching practice from the sideline Tuesday and Dwayne Haskins still looking at times like the rookie he is, Keenum worked regularly with first-teamers in the final practice before Washington faces the Bengals on Thursday (7:30 p.m., NBC/NBCSW) at FedEx Field.
Coach Jay Gruden said McCoy was sidelined by soreness but might still play Thursday.
Regardless of McCoy’s status, the pecking order hasn’t really changed since spring. Keenum has looked like the more polished passer throughout camp over McCoy, whose health problems cost him two previous chances to remain the Redskins’ starter. Now Keenum has a clear edge over his veteran counterpart, while Haskins’ steady improvement might make him the No. 2 option no matter who starts.
Keenum is savvy and clearly has a stronger arm than McCoy, who is better at short- to medium-range throws.
Keenum is benefiting from working more with the starters and seems to have a better feel for playing behind this offensive line of unknowns. On the left side, tackle Geron Christian and guard Ereck Flowers have a slight edge to win the starting jobs, but tackle Donald Penn and guard Wes Martin are still in the running.
No matter who starts on the line, a passer needs to have an internal clock on the blindside pass rush. Keenum clearly has a better understanding of how much time he has in the pocket than Haskins, who took a bad sack in the 30-10 loss at Cleveland in the preseason opener. The rookie froze at the sight of a rusher in his face.
Maybe McCoy will make a late bid, but he’ll really have only the third preseason game to do so. The preseason finale is mostly for reserves fighting for roster spots.
Unless Keenum plays poorly against Cincinnati, Gruden seems comfortable opening the season with him. Haskins could seal the job with a standout effort Thursday, and McCoy needs to come on strongly to have any shot.
The quarterback battle is partly two competitions — one for now and one for 2020.
Haskins is the team’s future after he was drafted 15th overall in April, but he’s still working out the kinks. His footwork can be a mess at times, leading to one of his two interceptions against Cleveland. Haskins also regularly throws the ball high, which decreases completion percentage and increases injuries to receivers. The Redskins want to be more patient with Haskins than they were with Robert Griffin III in 2012, and Keenum was acquired as a stopgap starter anyway.
The quarterback carousel of last year — when four passers started — seems destined for another go-around. The Redskins appear incapable of settling on just one QB — either Keenum or Haskins will become the 25th starting quarterback since 1993.
For now, though, Keenum looks like the front-runner.
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