With Colt McCoy recovering from a third surgery on his broken fibula and not expected back for two months, Case Keenum is the Washington Redskins’ top quarterback this offseason, which puts a strange pressure on him to be the offense’s leader this spring while learning a new team and system, helping rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins find his way and competing for the starting job all at once.
“I think first of all my job is to help this team win no matter what,” Keenum said Monday at the Redskins Charity Golf Classic at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington. “That’s being ready to play. That’s being ready to put our offense specifically in the best position to move the ball, get first downs and get touchdowns — score points. That’s my job. That’s what I’m here to do.
“Along with that process, different things you learn, you might mention something [to Haskins],” he continued. “But we’ve got a lot of great coaches in that quarterback room, so I don’t need to be a coach in that sense, but I learned more just by watching players around me. First and foremost, my job is to get ready to play and be ready when they need me.”
Monday brought the first time the 31-year-old Keenum has spoken to the Washington media since he was traded from the Denver Broncos in March. When asked whether he was surprised by that deal, which came one year after he signed with the Broncos as a free agent, Keenum said he “was surprised by a lot of things,” then added, “I’ve been around long enough to know I’m not surprised anymore at just about anything.”
At the time of the trade, he was expected to compete with McCoy for the starting job opened by Alex Smith’s potentially career-ending leg injury. But then McCoy underwent two more surgeries on his leg, both of which are related to the rush to recover from his initial surgery in December. These most recent operations have kept him out of organized team activities this spring.
Coach Jay Gruden said Monday that he hopes McCoy will be back for training camp. Reached later in the day, McCoy said his latest surgery has made it hard to predict when he will return, but he is hoping to participate in the team’s June minicamp and OTAs.
Washington took Haskins with the 15th pick of the draft, and Gruden said he wants the three quarterbacks to compete for the starting role, although he has not made a determination as to how he will structure that battle. Haskins and the other rookies won’t be able to meet their coaches until Thursday night, the evening before this weekend’s rookie minicamp.
Keenum, who is with his fifth team in six years, has mentored other young quarterbacks while fighting for his job. He laughed while saying that “this is no new game to me.” In 2016, he held the Rams’ starting quarterback job for most of the season until that year’s top draft pick, Jared Goff, was ready to take over. The next season, he replaced an injured Sam Bradford in Minnesota and led the Vikings to the NFC championship game, seemingly softening the idea that he is simply a placeholder starter, filling the job until a young star is capable of assuming the role.
When asked what he can do to help Haskins, Keenum shrugged.
“I don’t know yet,” he said. “It’s still pretty early to tell, but I think a good quarterback room is a noisy one where everybody talks and shares and sees things through different lenses. I’ve got a lot of knowledge that I’ve learned from guys in the past, so I think part of this league is being able to pass that on. That’s how I work. That’s how I operate.”
Keenum seems to have connected well with Gruden and the other offensive coaches. With last year’s passing game coordinator, Kevin O’Connell, becoming the offensive coordinator, Tim Rattay coming in as quarterbacks coach and previous offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh moving to a special assistant role, the team now has four former quarterbacks — including Gruden — working with the Redskins’ passers. That’s something Keenum said he really liked.
“I love how quarterback-friendly it is,” he said.
Later, he added: “It’s been really, really great getting to know this offense and seeing it through their eyes. It’s not the same verbiage I’m used to, but the way they think about it, the way they see the plays, especially as a play-caller — how [Gruden] calls plays and the intent he has behind it — it’s been really good to see that.”
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