Redskins quarterback Case Keenum took to the field for the first day of OTAs with his teammates Monday afternoon, beginning the next step of his initiation in Washington.
The 31-year-old quarterback has made the transition into three offenses in the past three years, but that doesn’t make this adjustment any easier. With Alex Smith out from last season’s injury, and Colt McCoy still rehabbing his broken leg, May and June offer the first real quarterback battles -- with Keenum and newcomer Dwayne Haskins taking center stage.
"It’s normal,” said Keenum. “I compete every day whether I’m playing football, playing ping pong, playing golf, I’m competing. I’m competing against myself. I’m competing against the defense. In the quarterback room, we’re always competing – throwing nets, trying to see who gets the most nets. Competition makes you better and that’s what the spring is about."
Keenum threw for 3,890 yards and 18 touchdowns with the Broncos last season, and 3,547 yards with 22 touchdowns the year prior in Minnesota. Head Coach Jay Gruden expects Keenum to produce at a high level for the Redskins’ offense this season.
Gruden addressed the media after practice on the evaluation at the quarterback position, stating “somebody is going to rise I would think. The cream always rises to the top and we’re hoping that’s the case.”
Keenum’s road in the NFL has not been an easy one. A steady streak of stops among different teams has not provided a steady atmosphere for Case to find his footing. The veteran began his career for the Houston Texans in 2012, later moving to the St. Louis Rams (2014), back to the Texans (2014), then to the Rams again (2015-16), then on to Minnesota (2017) and Denver (2018).
Despite his moves, his career passer rating of 84.5 makes him a viable starter and influential passer with 12,661 NFL career passing yards. The Houston alum also holds the NCAA record for all-time total passing yards, touchdowns and completions.
"I’ve always treated it the same every time,” said the veteran quarterback. “I compete with myself extremely hard. I compete with guys around me. I’m coming out here to do my best every single day and then build on that tomorrow. Learn from it, go watch the film and be better tomorrow."
Another aspect of Keenum’s role this season, along with Smith, is mentoring first-round pick Haskins. The No. 15 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Haskins has the potential to win the starting spot, but that decision will take time. Regardless, the two continue to grow together.
“I think he’s more worried about himself right now because he’s got a lot to learn himself,” Gruden said. “He’s going through this process for the first time as well, it’s not like he’s been here for 10 years. Everybody talks about [QB] Alex [Smith] when he mentored [QB Patrick] Mahomes over there, well Alex had been in the system, he had been playing for a while it was a little bit easier. Now that Case is here for the first time he’s got a lot to learn and we’re teaching them both equally like they’re new guys learning a new offense”
Haskins has high praise for Keenum, and a respect that will flourish in their relationship.
“He’s someone who wants to help me and that means a lot to me,” said Haskins. “I first met him at the Super Bowl. At the time he was a Bronco and I had no idea where I was going. It was cool to get to talk to guys like him in the NFL.”
The Washington roster is hindered by injuries, but the quarterback position will have plenty of intrigue as Keenum, Haskins, and eventually McCoy prepare for training camp.
“They have to learn the system first, then go out here and participate in practice and then produce and make the right reads and throws,” said Gruden. “It’s going to be a process. It’s the very, very beginning and we’re installing plays for the first time for the group. You know we started a couple weeks ago, but now we’re actually going out and being able to practice against a defense for the first time which is a whole other step. So, it’s a long process and I think they both handled it well today. Hopefully we’ll do better tomorrow and the next day and so on and so forth and I’m sure it will be a good, lengthy competition with some great players going at it."