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Case Keenum: The No Bull Review

A No Bull look at the Denver Broncos 2018 starting QB including thoughts, opinions, and analysis on what he brings to the table.

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The Denver Broncos have a new starting quarterback for the 2018 NFL season. The big question about the guy is who is he? Is he the guy that led an almost unstoppable Minnesota Vikings in 2017? Is he a guy who got lucky and got paid?

I honestly think we won’t know for sure for at least one more season, but given that I’m a Bronco fan first and foremost I don’t pay a ton of attention to most NFC teams until the playoffs. I’m not like some who might look at a stat sheet or listen to what other talking heads say about a guy. This is the No Bull Review. I call it like I see it. So I set some time aside recently to watch every play Keenum made for the Vikings in the 2017 regular season.

For those of you who haven’t been following me long, I think it is fairly important to point out that first and foremost my opinions come from what I see. While stats are interesting, they are very, very limited in my mind unless you use them in context with the whole picture in mind.

To follow that up, I put more weight on what a player does in his past year of play than anything else. Why? Because that’s most indicative of who a player is today than anything else you can base your opinion on.

Keenum’s Strengths

Confident command of the playbook

The most impressive thing about Keenum’s game that stuck out to me as I got into watching his tape was his command of the plays on the field. Whether it was head faking a handoff during a play-action pass play, understanding the route combinations he has to read, or misdirecting a safety with a look-off, Keenum knew and understood what his offensive coordinator was asking to be executed from play to play.

The confidence aspect of his game really stands out in this regard. What he was as a quarterback for the Vikings was a key part of what very talented team working like a well-oiled machine and getting into a solid playoff run. He stepped in and knocked it out of the part as far as being asked to be a solid starting NFL QB for his team.

Superb deep-ball accuracy

From his physical tool-set, his deep ball accuracy was very much above average. Sure he missed some (like every QB does that takes shots down the field), but when he connected, it was either in a spot where only his guy could get it, or perfectly led to allow his WRs to do serious damage on the field.

I had thought that a lot of his success in 2017 was from his two young stud WRs on the outside, but while that is definitely a factor, his accurace down-field was definitely part of the equation as well.

Scrambling ability

Keenum has a very good understanding of how to move in, out, and around the pocket. He extends plays with his feet (including tucking it and running when the field is open in front of him) and understands angles to use in order to keep him just out of arm’s reach of pass rushers.

It is worth noting that this ability and his deep ball accuracy go hand-in-hand. Because of him extending plays, it opens up a lot of down-field opportunities that aren’t necessarily the first option on any given play.

Keenum’s Weaknesses

Lack of velocity

His throws don’t have a ton of juice on them. If any of you have admired Aaron Rogers’ play, you know what I’m talking about. This isn’t a big-time requirement in the NFL as you can play around this weakness especially if you have accuracy (which Keenum does), but it is worth noting that he’s not the guy with the laser-rocket arm who can zip passes into small windows to complete passes.

Requires weapons around him

Keenum needs guys with above average talent around him in order to make an offense with him as the head of it work. His running backs, tight ends (including blocking secondary TE), and his wide receivers all played very well around him and inside the offensive system the Vikings employed in 2017.

What I saw on film looked more like a guy getting the most of his offensive system and less like a guy that was elevating the play of the guys around him.

Doesn’t appear to be “The Guy” / have “It”

That ephemeral thing we all look for in “franchise quarterbacks” isn’t there with Keenum. He’s not a super charismatic quarterbacking savant on the field. Some of you (especially you stat freaks) are surely rolling your eyes about now, but yes, having “It” is a thing. You can’t quantify it. It isn’t something you can scientifically track. Yet I know it when I see it, and I don’t see it in Keenum.

Overall outlook for Keenum in 2018:

I honestly like a lot of what I see from Keenum’s game. The biggest factor that is going to make him successful or not is going to be the ability of our offensive staff to create a system that can maximize the potential of the whole offensive team, create mismatches, and keep defenses guessing on what is coming next.

Keenum needs a sound run game. He needs pass-catching tight ends and running backs. He needs to keep defenses on their toes guessing what is coming next.

The good thing is, if the Broncos can get Bill Musgrave to create a functional offensive system, Keenum is a guy who can make that system work. I love the big play ability he brings to the table. He’s not afraid of throwing to all levels of the field including the middle unlike some of our more recent QBs. He looks sharp and appears to have good command of the playbook.

I like the direction that John Elway went on Case Keenum and his contract. He’s got a great opportunity to show the league that he’s a real deal starter (and I think he can be...more likely a top-15 guy than a top-10, but that’s still a huge improvement for the Broncos).

Hit me up in the comments and let me know what you think, what questions you have, or insights you have on Keenum. I for one am excited to see what he can do for our team in 2018.