St. Louis Rams

Rams hoping for offensive spark with QB switch to Keenum

Case Keenum will replace former starter Nick Foles as the St. Louis Rams starting quarterback Sunday against Baltimore
Case Keenum will replace former starter Nick Foles as the St. Louis Rams starting quarterback Sunday against Baltimore

For now, the St. Louis Rams seem to be much more in search of an offensive spark than a quarterback controversy.

However, any time an NFL team makes a switch of healthy quarterbacks, it generates a lot of noise and the Rams’ decision this week to replace Nick Foles with backup Case Keenum was no different.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher brought all of his quarterbacks in at the same time to break the news.

“Nick’s one of my best friends,” said Keenum, who made eight starts with the Houston Texans last season after spending much of the first half of 2014 with the Rams. “I have the utmost respect for Nick. That’s the first person that I talked to after Coach Fisher told us. We have a great relationship and I have his back no matter what.

“Nobody cares more about this team, loves the guys on this team, respects the guys on this team. If you guys would’ve heard the speech he gave Saturday night before the (Bears) game the other night, it moved me. One of the best I’ve ever heard pregame.”

The speech notwithstanding, Foles’ quarterback play was deemed by Fisher below the level needed to keep him as a starter. As a result, the Rams (4-5) will be featuring a new quarterback Sunday in Baltimore against the Ravens (2-7).

You don’t get many chances to play in this league. I definitely count it as a blessing. To have a second chance to come out and compete is incredible.

Rams quarterback Case Keenum

Keenum’s added mobility and ability to keep plays alive outside the pocket could bring a little more life to the Rams’ struggling offense. Not only do they have the NFL’s worst third-down conversion rate (24.3 percent; 10.7 percent behind No. 31 San Francisco), the Rams also rank 31st in total offense and last in passing yards per game.

“I think that Case has shown that he can extend plays,” Fisher said of the former University of Houston standout. “I mean, scramble around, extend plays and make throws down the field. So, yeah, there are some things that we can do a little bit differently. But, it all starts with the run game and our ability to protect him.”

Fisher also made a change at quarterback last season, but it took injuries to starter Sam Bradford and later Shaun Hill to get Austin Davis into the lineup.

Davis played well early and went 3-5 in eight starts before being replaced by Hill.

If Foles is unable to reclaim the full-time job, the Rams may still be in the hunt for a true No. 1 quarterback. Rookie Sean Mannion hasn’t seen any action outside of a few preseason stints and Keenum is a work in progress.

He’s won games. He’s proven it. He’s won games in Houston with a team that had significant injuries around him and he found ways to win games.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher on Case Keenum

“I’ve kind of been through it all,” Keenum said. “You have to be ready when you get a chance. I’m ready. I’ve been prepared and that’s what I do every week, is I get ready to play. I’m excited for my chance, I really am.

“I’m excited to go out there and compete again. You don’t get many chances to play in this league. I definitely count it as a blessing. To have a second chance to come out and compete is incredible.”

Foles takes a seat after completing 145-of-246 passes in the Rams’ first nine games for 1,678 yards and seven TDs with six interceptions. Compared with the NFL’s 32 starting quarterbacks, Foles ranks 29th in yards, 28th in completion percentage, 24th in attempts and 30th in average gain.

“I’m going to keep working,” said Foles, who struggled Sunday in the loss to Chicago. “I’ve gone through adversity before. I’ve gone through injuries. I’ve gone through setbacks. They’ve all made me stronger, they’ve all made me a better person. In the grand scheme of things, we’re very fortunate to do the things that we do.

“There’s a lot worse things that could have happened. I’m going to use this and I’m going to go work and I’m going to keep working.”

This will be Keenum’s first start with the Rams, but he logged 10 NFL starts in two stints with the Houston Texans. He won starts against Baltimore and Jacksonville for the Texans in 2014, but was 0-8 in 2013 for a team that finished 2-14.

The Rams had Keenum on their squad last season after picking him up by waivers, but by the end of the season he was back with the Texans again after being on the Rams’ practice squad.

The Rams liked him enough to send a seventh-round pick to Houston to reacquire Keenum last March.

“What we saw in Case here on the practice field was special,” Fisher said. “His instincts, his mobility, his arm strength, his anticipation. Mind you, it was just practice, he was running scout team. When he got to go two-minute against the defense, it was there.

“He’s won games. He’s proven it. He’s won games in Houston with a team that had significant injuries around him and he found ways to win games. We’re going to trust his mobility and his ability to extend plays and things, and just give us an offensive spark that we need.”

The Rams sent former first overall pick Sam Bradford, a fifth-round pick in 2015 and conditional pick in 2016 to the Philadelphia Eagles last April in exchange for Foles, a fourth-round pick in 2015 and a second-rounder in 2016.

Then in early August, before Foles had ever played a game for the Rams, he received a two-year, $24.54 million contract extension.

“This is my decision based on what I think is best for this team offensively to go in this direction,” Fisher said when asked to provide further insight into his decision to bench Foles. “By no means do we regret the trade (for Foles). By no means do we regret the extension. Nick is a good quarterback.

“But at this point right now, based on where we are offensively, I feel this is the direction we have to go.”

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders

  Comments