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The "Gunslinger" Case Keenum aiming more for pocket

Posted Nov 20, 2013

Quarterback Case Keenum is focused on staying in the pocket a bit more as a passer.

Through the first four starts of his career, Case Keenum has been entertaining.

Eight touchdown passes to just one interception.

14 completions of 25 yards or more.

A quarterback rating of 99.0.

Keenum’s clearly had some ‘wow’ moments. But those moments have all happened in losses by the Texans, and the second-year signal caller is trying to work on a few things, like staying in the pocket longer when defenses dial up a blitz.

“I think I can do a better job of trusting when those pressures that they are going to be picked up and recognizing that we have the right protection called and to the right pressure,” Keenum said Wednesday. “And still be able to stay in the pocket and knowing I don’t have to drift, I don’t have to move.”

Some of Keenum’s best throws have come after he’s scrambled to avoid a sack. His lone touchdown pass in Sunday’s loss to Oakland is a perfect example. After running to his right and gathering himself just in bounds, he connected with tight end Garrett Graham for a 42-yard scoring strike.

But on 3rd-and-12 at the Raiders’ 25-yard line in the first quarter, he was dropped for a 15-yard loss when Lamarr Houston finally corralled him. It took the Texans out of field goal range, and Keenum said he knows he can’t make mistakes like that again.

“I can make a better throw on a deeper route on time rather than trying to escape and get out of there, and totally have a busted play, if you will,” Keenum said.

Still, head coach Gary Kubiak doesn’t want to shackle an aspect of Keenum’s game that has been to the Texans’ benefit.

“You don’t want to ever take away his ability to make plays,” Kubiak said. “I want him to react and do those type of things.”

Through the first four starts, Keenum has 992 passing yards, and has completed 70-of-126 attempts. The notion that Keenum has ‘happy feet’ and is unwilling to be a pocket passer doesn’t fly with Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley, who spoke with the Houston media via a Wednesday conference call.

“I think he does a really good job of staying in the pocket,” Bradley said. “But, I think what stands out to us is he’ll improvise.”

Bradley also mentioned how impressed he’s been by Keenum’s “good poise”, and the “sense of spirit” the former Houston Cougar has infused the team with during his short time as a starter.

Because Keenum has shown a willingness to scramble and throw outside of the pocket, his offensive line has had to adjust. But left guard Wade Smith said that’s a good thing.

“When he’s making plays,you’re not going to do much complaining,” Smith said. “I think you realize as an offensive linemen, you have to protect a little bit longer and maybe at different angles than you might normally because he’ll extend plays and he’ll run around a little bit more.”

The term “gunslinger” has been used, at times, to describe Keenum. And Kubiak said that’s an aspect of his game shared by some of the NFL’s greats.

“Those good ones do,” Kubiak said. “So I think that’s what gives him a chance, an excellent chance to be a good player in this league.”

Keenum doesn’t mind the moniker either, as long it’s in the positive “John Wayne-type” sense of the word. While he’s aiming to spend a little more time in the pocket, and negate the blitzes that have sometimes gotten to him, he’s still going to stick with what’s worked.

“I’m coming out slinging it to be perfectly honest,” Keenum said. “I’ve got nothing to lose. That’s been my mindset for a long time and it’s the way I am.”

Keenum and the Texans will practice again Thursday afternoon at the Houston Methodist Training Center as they prepare for Sunday’s Week 12 matchup against the Jaguars.

Twitter.com/DoughertyDrew

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