Texans quarterbacks John Beck and Case Keenum will have a final chance to vie for a roster spot on Thursday night at Reliant Stadium.
Coach Gary Kubiak announced Tuesday that backup quarterback T.J. Yates will not play against the Minnesota Vikings in the preseason finale. Beck, a sixth-year veteran, will start the game. Keenum, an undrafted rookie from the University of Houston, will play the entire second half.
It's highly likely – although not a certainty – that the Texans will keep three quarterbacks when they reduce their roster from 75 to 53 players on Friday. Either Beck or Keenum will be the odd man out.
"They've both done their job in camp," Kubiak said on Monday. "Two totally different guys; I'm talking about a veteran that's had some experience, some starting time, so do we go that direction or do we go with the young man that looks like he's got a bright future ahead of him? That's probably the toughest thing, but they both handle what we've done fine, and Case has come a long way. It'll probably have a lot to do with the rest of the makeup of the football team, to be honest."
A team's third quarterback normally isn't a big deal, but the Texans didn't have a normal season in 2011. They lost Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart to season-ending injuries. They had six different quarterbacks on the active roster and three different starters. Yates, a rookie fifth-round draft pick, was thrust into the lineup in Week 12 after being inactive for the first 10 games.
Kubiak left open the possibility Tuesday that the Texans keep only two quarterbacks, depending on what they do at positions like running back, tight end and wide receiver. But considering the Texans have carried three quarterbacks in both of the last two seasons and what happened in 2011, it would be a major surprise if they changed course in 2012.
Beck, 31, has started seven games in his five-year NFL career. A second-round draft pick out of BYU in 2007, he signed with the Texans in May after two seasons in a similar offense with the Washington Redskins.
In his one preseason appearance with the Texans, Beck was sharp against the Carolina Panthers on Aug. 11. He completed 4-of-6 passes for 46 yards (89.6 rating) and led an 11-play, 61-yard touchdown drive on his first series.
"I want to do the very best I can with every opportunity I get so I can make this football team," Beck said on Monday. "That's my goal right now is to be a Houston Texan. From the day that Coach Kubiak called me and said, 'I would like you to come out and practice with us,' my goal has been to make this football team. So that's what I'm focused on is going out and playing the best that I can so they want to keep me around, they feel like I bring something to the table that can help this football team. Be it if it's just helping prepare the defense for the opponent they play that week or whatever it may be, I just want my talents to help this football team."
Beck is well aware of the situation he and Keenum are in, but he doesn't feel any added pressure.
"You can't think about what's at stake," he said. "You just got to go play ball. I've been in a lot of situations, and I just try to take that experience and go play ball. You just say whatever happens, happens (and) hope for the best."
Keenum, 24, is 3-of-6 for 53 yards (80.5 rating) this preseason. He has played in two games but only had a chance to throw three passes in both of them.
"I'm excited to about getting into a game and getting into a rhythm," Keenum said Monday. "A lot of those games were kind of like the four-minute drives where we're handing the ball off, trying to run the time off, so hopefully we'll get in there and be able to get some rhythm with some of the receivers and tight ends and run and pass. I'm excited to get into a rhythm with all those guys and really operate the offense for an extended period of time, not just short bursts here and there."
Asked what he thinks he needs to show Kubiak on Thursday, the all-time leading passer in NCAA history said he just wants to "do my job and try to move the offense and create first downs, and first downs turn into touchdowns."
"I'm excited," Keenum said. "I think it's a heck of an opportunity. There's a lot of guys out there that don't get something like this. I've jumped at every opportunity I've got, whether it's small or big. I think this is definitely one of the biggest one's I've had, so I'm really excited."