Daily Focus: Case Keenum over Jared Goff wise short-term move for Rams
Editor’s note: Every day in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest NFL news and translate what it really means for each team involved.
Bringing Jared Goff along slowly smart move for Rams: Ian Rapoport tweeted yesterday that there is a real chance that quarterback Case Keenum enters the 2016 season as the starter for the Los Angeles Rams. While first-overall pick Jared Goff (Cal) is starting to get some first-team reps, the news isn’t entirely surprising if the Rams want to bring their franchise quarterback along slowly. Goff is going to be the Rams’ starting quarterback at some point, and it would be surprising if he didn’t take the reigns during the 2016 season at some point.
Keenum has graded negatively on 942 snaps over the course of his career so far, but did finish three of his five starts in 2015 with a positive grade, so the Rams are at least in fairly safe hands if the veteran indeed begins the season as the starter. He was solid throwing the ball downfield last season, completing six of the 17 passes traveling 20 yards or more downfield, but one area in which he struggled was passing under pressure. On plays where the opposing defense didn’t get pressure, Keenum completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 679 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions; when under pressure, that dropped to 41.7 percent, 149 yards, a single touchdown, and an interception. Under pressure, Keenum’s quarterback rating dropped from 102.2 to 51.7.
While it makes sense to start Keenum early in the year if Goff isn’t quite ready, Rams fans will be eager to see their quarterback of the future, especially after such an impressive 2015 college campaign. His final season at Cal saw him grade higher than both Jameis Winston’s final season at Florida State and Marcus Mariota’s final season at Oregon, and both of those players finished their NFL rookie seasons with an overall positive grade. That doesn’t mean Goff will definitely play well as a rookie, but it’s interesting to compare him to two players who handled themselves fairly well in their first pro seasons.
It’s easy to understand why the Rams want to ease Goff into the pro game gently, rather than throwing him in at the deep end, but he was the top player selected in this draft for a reason, and has the arm to make big-time throws in the NFL. He excelled throwing the ball downfield in his final season at Cal, completing 44 of the 100 passes he attempted over 20 yards or more downfield. It looks like Keenum will open the preseason as the starter, but it also wouldn’t come as a shock to see Goff outplay him and win the top job before the season begins.
Gurley not the No. 1 back
Between a struggling offense no matter who is QB and his lack of pass-catching, Todd Gurley isn’t likely to be fantasy’s No. 1 back.
Impact of potential Lane Johnson suspension for Eagles: News broke yesterday that Philadelphia Eagles starting offensive tackle Lane Johnson, who owned the 22nd-highest grade at the position last year, is facing a 10-game suspension. His absence would be a huge loss for the Eagles, and could lead to some reshuffling along the line to cover while he is out. 2012 fifth-round draft pick Dennis Kelly started one game at the position last year and played in six games at tackle, with another three at guard. At tackle, he allowed four sacks and 14 hurries, but performed better as a run-blocker, grading positively in all but one of the games he played at the spot.
Johnson was up and down for the first half of the 2015 season, but didn’t allow a single sack or hit, and surrendered just five hurries in the final five games of the year. The fourth-overall pick in the 2013 draft, Johnson hasn’t quite lived up to that billing, but has graded positively over the course of his career so far. The Eagles will have some reshuffling to do to fill the void should he indeed miss 10 games.
Injuries already affecting Pats’ 2016 outlook? Patriots fans held their collective breath yesterday when news broke of WR Julian Edelman leaving practice early, but early reports are that it’s not believed to be serious. That’s good news, given that Edelman was the 15th-highest-graded receiver in the NFL last year, with an overall grade of 86.5, but also because of how important he is to New England’s offense.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski is obviously the best receiver on the roster, but Edelman has developed into one of the best WRs in football, and definitely the best WR on the team. Despite missing time last year, he racked up 845 yards and seven touchdowns in the 11 games he played, including the playoffs. He forced 16 missed tackles on 78 receptions in 2015, and has become a favorite target of Tom Brady over the past three seasons. In that span—despite missing time through injury in 2015—Edelman has seen 439 passes thrown his way. Provided his injury checks out fine, everyone should expect to see him see plenty of targets once again in 2016.
Following the Edelman news, however, Patriots fans learned of DE Rob Ninkovich’s injury. Tearing his triceps, the hope is that the 10-year veteran can return mid-October. Last season, Ninkovich earned the worst overall grade of his career—58th among NFL 4-3 DEs, in fact—though it was his first negative grade of his pro tenure.