The Los Angeles Rams are coming off a bye, which followed Case Keenum’s worst game yet. On Sunday, the Rams face the Panthers, who have struggled against the pass this season. So if there was ever a time to start first overall pick Jared Goff, it would be this week.
So far this season, Keenum has thrown for eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions, four of which have been returned for touchdowns. The only quarterback in the NFL who has thrown more interceptions than Keenum is the New York Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has played one more game. Keenum currently ranks dead last in the NFL for quarterback rating, with a 40.8.
Still, Jeff Fisher is determined to stick with Keenum at quarterback.
The Rams are 3-4, but the Week 7 loss to the New York Giants in London was the third consecutive for Los Angeles, and Keenum played horribly, literally throwing the game away with four interceptions in the 17-10 defeat.
And then there’s this, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in Keenum as a starter:
Case Keenum has thrown an INT on the Rams last offensive play in 3 straight games.— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) October 23, 2016
Still, Fisher is committed to keeping Keenum under center.
"The quarterback's not the reason, by the way, that we lost three games," Fisher said following the loss in London. "I'm staying with Case. He had a couple of tips and things like that today, not necessarily his fault, and then Brian [Quick] didn't get the audible adjustment at the end."
There are times when interceptions aren’t a quarterback’s fault, and it’s only fair to acknowledge that. However, Keenum bears more responsibility for his throws that were picked off by the Giants than Fisher is admitting.
The picks were a problem
This was Keenum’s third interception of the game. The pass, intended for Tavon Austin, looks way off target, and had Austin not fallen down, it’s difficult to imagine how he would have gotten into a position to catch this ball.
The Giants have cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in coverage against Austin with safety Andrew Adams heading over to help. Austin is not, at any point, in a position to make a play on this ball.
At this point, the Rams were trailing 20-10 and had plenty of time to make up the deficit.
Keenum’s fourth pick of the day was even worse. It came late in the fourth quarter, with the Rams still trailing 20-10.
This one was intended for wide receiver Quick, and it’s the one Fisher dismissed as Quick not adjusting to an audible at the line of scrimmage. But it’s egregious.
Quick may not have been where he was expected to be, but a quick read of the field should have made Keenum aware that nobody was in the vicinity of that pass except for Rodgers-Cromartie, who picked off Keenum again.
It wasn’t just the picks
The picks were bad, but Keenum puts the Rams in difficult situations even when he isn’t throwing interceptions.
On this incomplete pass, which occurred in the second quarter, Keenum had a wide open receiver to the left, and instead, he throws it high and over the middle.
The Giants were bringing pressure on Keenum on that throw in the second quarter, and the rapidly collapsing pocket may have been a factor in what ended up being an off-target throw. That wasn’t the case for this incompletion in the third quarter.
His receiver beats coverage, and as the Giants try to catch up, the ball sails just a bit too far for the receiver to get there. It’s simply a bad throw despite the fact that Keenum had ample time to make his reads and throw the ball.
And this incompletion in the fourth quarter was way off target.
Keenum has a receiver in position, but the throw was so far outside that there was no way the receiver had any chance of catching it.
* * *
Elsewhere in the league, the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys are starting rookie quarterbacks. The Eagles are 4-3 with Carson Wentz, the second overall pick. Dallas is rolling with fourth rounder Dak Prescott, sitting at 6-1 with a two-game lead in the NFC East.
In Los Angeles, however, the quarterback the Rams traded up to select first overall in the 2016 draft is languishing on the bench while Keenum remains the starter.
Goff did get first-team reps in practice during the team’s bye week, but despite reports of progress, he’ll remain on the bench this week against the Panthers.
“You could just see the confidence with what was going on,” Rams offensive coordinator Rob Boras said of Goff’s progress, via Gary Klein at the Los Angeles Times. “The wheels weren’t turning when he got up to the line of scrimmage, and he was real accurate and decisive with what he was doing.”
That doesn’t mean the team’s ready to make a change — for whatever reason.