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Case Keenum Grabs Early Edge

Case Keenum grabs early edge in Texans backup QB race with University of Houston moxie

Case Keenum throwing Texans camp
Case Keenum is impressing in training camp — just like he impressed in mini camp and OTAs. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Case Keenum Texans fling
Case Keenum is taking aim at the Houston Texans No. 2 quarterback job. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
TJ Yates Texans throwing
T.J. Yates may find himself in a dog fight to hold onto the backup spot to Matt Schaub. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Gary Kubiak Texans
Gary Kubiak — the Houston Texans' version of a quarterback whisperer — is taking it all in. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Texans QB camp
Of course, the Houston Texans will be happiest if Matt Schaub takes every snap that matters in 2013. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Case Keenum Texans camp
But Case Keenum still wants to be ready when it counts. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Case Keenum close Texans
Case Keenum will get a real chance in the preseason this year. Photo by Michelle Watson/CultureMapSnap
Case Keenum throwing Texans camp
Case Keenum Texans fling
TJ Yates Texans throwing
Gary Kubiak Texans
Texans QB camp
Case Keenum Texans camp
Case Keenum close Texans
News_Chris Baldwin_managing editor_arms crossed

As the media horde swarms around Ed Reed, waiting on the first training camp words of the grizzled Hall of Famer to be, Case Keenum throws passes to undrafted free agent wide receiver Andy Cruse on another field.

In one sequence, Keenum tells Cruse — who is more of a longshot, wide-eyed dreamer than even Keenum himself ever was — when to cut on a certain route, playing it forward even as Reed talks about being thought of as the Houston Texans new wise "uncle."

This extra time on the field after practice is anything but a charity situation to Keenum though. If he didn't having willing wide receivers, you get the idea he'd call over his wife Kimberly, who is waiting patiently on the sideline after this packed open practice, and send her on a go route.

 It's training camp now, the first preseason game is only 10 days away and Keenum's only gaining on Yates. 

Keenum knows he needs to grab every chance. He'll squeeze in extra reps whenever — and however — he can.

"It's important," Keenum says of the post-practice work. "You want to feel good about what you're doing and end on a good note. It's a chance to work on things.

"If you had a bad rep in practice, you want to work on that and do it right. Make that play a good rep."

So Keenum gets in as many reps as he can. The former University of Houston quarterback star keeps pushing himself, almost willing himself into an NFL ready quarterback throw after throw . . . after throw. This is the Case Keenum way. He always wanted to know how many passes he threw and completed in each practice at UH and his old coach Kevin Sumlin made sure the hard data was available.

This analytical drive is starting to be recognized on the pro level as well. Texans coach Gary Kubiak is talking about just how hard Keenum is pushing T.J. Yates for the No. 2 quarterback job again. Kubiak said much of the same thing during OTAs (essentially offseason practices in shorts), but some Houston media voices refused to accept that truth. Some like 610 AM's Nick Wright downright mocked the idea.

Only it's training camp now, the first preseason game is only 10 days away and Keenum's only gaining on Yates.

"He’s having a really good camp," Kubiak says of Keenum. "I’ll be interested to see — he’s going to play a lot in the preseason. I’ve got to play him and T.J. a great deal."

Kubiak also notes how Yates is having some issues. "I think T.J. can throw the ball a little better than he’s throwing it," the coach says. "His arm is a little tired right now. They’re all tired. He missed a few this morning, but he made some plays.

"He’s in a very competitive situation right now with Case and that will work itself out throughout the course of the preseason."

If this was a more manipulative coach, a coach who didn't care about his players the way Kubiak does, one might argue that this simply could be a well-played ploy. A kick in the butt to a quarterback with some proven NFL experience (Yates).

Toying with his guys' emotions isn't really the Gary Kubiak way though. This isn't Rex Ryan. Kubiak doesn't just say things for effect.

No False Houston Texans Hope

Keenum has at least a shot at the No. 2 job. Last training camp, Keenum faced the pressure of making the team as an undrafted free agent whose incredible college success was dismissed by too many small-time NFL thinkers. This training camp he's squaring off against a whole different type of pressure: The pressure of competing with a real chance.

"There's always pressure," Keenum tells CultureMap in a one-on-one interview after a West Texas TV reporter moves on, happy with his soundbites. "If there's not any pressure, you're doing something wrong.

"This feels 100 percent different (from last year) though. One hundred percent better."

 "If you had a bad rep in practice, you want to work on that and do it right. Make that play a good rep." 

Keenum is throwing the deep ball that many didn't know he had. (Though no one is throwing a better deep ball in camp than ridiculously-arm-strength-questioned starting quarterback Matt Schaub, who is somehow arguably both the Texans most indispensable and most underrated player.) Keenum is showing command of Kubiak's offense and the huddle.

The guy who's been a lifelong underdog (not expected to start when he arrived at UH, heck not expected to start when he first showed up at Abilene's Wylie High School) is giving himself another unexpected shot.

Keenum knows he will have to beat out a quarterback he has tremendous respect for in Yates to grab the backup job, a quarterback who helped win Kubiak his first playoff game. It's part of the game.

"We're always pushing each other as a quarterback group," Keenum says. "Everyone's pushing each other, forcing the other guy to be better.

"We're doing that every rep out here. Matt sets that tone."

Every rep counts. Every extra rep you can get matters.

So after a two-hour practice in front of a record Texans training camp crowd of nearly 6,000 fans — a two-hour practice in Houston's merciless late July heat — all the quarterbacks stick around to throw some more. And then Keenum lingers even a little bit longer. By now Reed is talking about Andre Johnson's prediction that the prized free agent signee will play in Week One, noting, "If Dre said it, then it shall be."

Case Keenum doesn't want any bad reps left in his head. So he throws. Guys like Ed Reed have earned the right to hold court. Case Keenum just wants the chance to work.

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