Shooting the Bull: Keenum the right move?
For a closer look at the Texans with the All-22 coaching tape, each week, we will talk with Sean Coffey, content producer and technical football analyst of NFL Playbook on NFL Network.
Aspan: Case Keenum earned another start after his performance against the Chiefs - what impressed you the most about Keenum in that game?
Coffey: His poise. Keenum made a 42-yard throw in the third quarter to Andre Johnson where he scrambled to the right sideline, began to reverse field, spotted Johnson and hit him on the left side of the field. He threw the ball from outside of the far hash, on the run and over 40 yards down the field – quieting the crowd and that is hard to do in Kansas City.
This was a play by Keenum that Matt Schaub could never duplicate – that’s not his game. At that moment, the Texans needed a big play because they were down four points late in the third (quarter). Not to downplay the 2nd-and-10 throw when the offense was backed up on its own 1-yard line or the deep shot taken on the incompletion to Garrett Graham on the tight end throwback play. The young man made some big time situational throws and that is why even with a healthy Schaub, Keenum gets the nod.
PA: What is his biggest area for improvement?
SC: If Keenum needed to work on something it should be settling down. But with the Chiefs’ game being his first NFL start, I totally understand him rushing at times. He put himself in bad position on a few incompletions and most of it was due to rushed mechanics. There were a few pressures that the protection should have been changed to compensate for, but it was his first game so I cannot be overly critical of him.
Keenum needs to be quick, but not in a hurry and just become more familiar with the offense and make it his offense. Sometimes you can tell that he is thinking through things as the play is going on and not just playing. That will change with time though.
PA: As good as J.J. Watt is, the Texans lost the quarterback of their defense, Brian Cushing, for most of the season for the second straight year. Where did they miss him the most last year and where will opponents look to take advantage with him sidelined?
SC: Losing Cushing is a huge blow to an already struggling defense. They have lost a very instinctive player. Cushing is an intelligent linebacker that can dissect a play quickly, believe what he sees and attacks. His speed in the front seven will be sorely missed along with his aggression.
Cushing plays mentally under control, but is a physical wreck on the field. He is not afraid of anything, he attacks lead blocking linemen and fullbacks with no hesitation. That type of play gives his leadership credibility. Cushing’s ability to lead with the attitude that he brings can be contagious, and that is probably going to be the biggest part of him not playing.
With Cushing out, that intermediate level in the passing game has become even more vulnerable. Cushing’s ability to read routes and route combinations by multiple wide receivers on one side of the field is superior. His pick-6 came from just that, seeing the inside receiver’s depth on his route and Cushing broke to the outside No. 2 receiver and undercut the pass. His instinct in the passing game as well as the run game will be sorely missed along with his presence on the field to lead this defense.