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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Who are the NFL’s most comparable quarterbacks to Case Keenum?

By Matthew Coller

No Over the past three weeks, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum has gone from being praised for his work as a backup to the darling of NFL pregame shows everywhere.

Not too long ago, a graphic ended up on TV comparing Keenum’s first few starts to those of Tom Brady’s following Drew Bledsoe’s injury once upon a time. There have also been plenty of other comparisons to journeymen like Brian Hoyer or Matt Cassel, but none of those quite fit either.

Upon closer examination, which current NFL QBs compare the closest to Keenum? Let’s have a look…

Andy Dalton

In 2015, Andy Dalton put himself in elite company with a terrific season in which he threw 25 touchdowns, seven interceptions, averaged 8.4 yards per attempt and posted a 106.2 quarterback rating. His rise was surprising considering he’d never topped a 90 rating before that and had only an 83.5 rating the previous season.

The Bengals’ quarterback landed upon a perfect situation in 2015, starting with an offensive coordinator in Hue Jackson who understood his strengths perfectly.

ESPN Nickel Package podcast host and Pre-Snap reads author Cian Fahey wrote this of the Jackson/Dalton relationship:

“Jackson understood who Dalton was. He recognized that the quarterback thrived on pre-snap reads but struggled to break down the defense and maintain mechanical discipline the longer he had to hold the ball. Furthermore, Jackson recognized that Dalton’s strengths were throwing the ball to short and intermediate routes on clearly defined reads (throws where he didn’t need to throw with anticipation), but his ability to throw with precision downfield was all but non-existent. Jackson built an offense around Dalton that allowed him to make pre-snap reads or simplified post-snap reads while primarily throwing the ball fewer than five yards past the line of scrimmage.”

In 2015, 66% of Dalton’s throws were 10 yards or less, but he was exceptional when throwing between 11-20 yards, posting a 130.4 rating in 79 throws.

Dalton was able to post great numbers without the best arm or accuracy. In last year’s Pre-Snap reads QB catalog, Fahey ranked Dalton as the 24th most accurate passer.

Why? Because Dalton had an incredible group of weapons helping to bolster his play. His top three receivers were AJ Green, Marvin Jones and Mohammad Sanu along with tight end Tyler Eifert. Green is an elite receiver and since leaving the Bengals, we have seen Jones and Sanu flourish with superior quarterbacks.

He also had future Hall of Fame left tackle Andrew Whitworth. In 2015, Dalton was sacked just 20 times in 13 games.

On the ground, the Bengals had a strong running attack between Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. In total, the Bengals rushed for 1,805 yards, 13th most in the NFL. Dalton’s cause was also helped by a terrific defense, which ranked second in the NFL.

Case Keenum has had a similar jump in his statistics, posting a 96.2 rating this season after having a previous high of 78.2 (in a season with at least eight starts).

He’s been helped along by Shurmur, who has rarely asked him to make throws into traffic. Keenum’s splits are very similar to Dalton’s in 2015, throwing 61% of passes under 10 yards. The intermediate throws, when made, have been a success as Keenum has posted a 111.3 rating on throws between 11-20.

Our perception of the Vikings’ downfield passing game is colored by a handful of big plays. Keenum is only 10-for-32 with one touchdown and two interceptions on passes beyond 20 yards.

Pro Football Focus recently named the VIkings’ receiver tandem of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs the NFL’s best receiving duo. Each can get open at any level and against any coverage and both have outstanding hands and ability to win so-called “50-50” balls.

Fahey rated Keenum the 21st most accurate QB last season. Also his Pro Football Focus ratings (which had him 18th heading into Thursday’s game), which grade throws alone, do not match up with his other numbers, likely because of how often Thielen and Diggs have made great plays.

Tight end Kyle Rudolph, who had 83 catches last year, has also been a favorite target of Keenum’s and he’s been supported by the eighth best running game in total yards, a quality left tackle in Riley Reiff and an outstanding defense.

Both Dalton and Keenum have limitations in throwing power and accuracy, but are pushed into the next tier of QB play because of their clever offensive coordinators and outstanding weapons.

Kirk Cousins

Nov 12, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) passes the ball against the Minnesota Vikings in the first quarter at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

If you read Kirk Cousins’s NFL.com draft profile, you’d swear it was written for Case Keenum. It reads:

“He is a self-made guy, a tireless worker who has deficiencies that could hurt his pro potential. He is not a very strong deep thrower; while his velocity is adequate, his accuracy when throwing deep is questionable. Ultimately, Cousins is a guy who could get drafted based on his experience and intangibles, and will need to put on size and fine-tune certain throwing deficiencies to catch on at the next level. Based on the production and leadership at Michigan State, Cousins has late-round value to a team looking for someone to compete for a backup role.”

Cousins’ 2016 season was the best of his career as he posted a 97.2 rating, 27 touchdowns, 12 INTs and nearly 5,000 yards passing.

Starting with the scheme, Washington has found ways to get receivers in space using play-action throws. According to Football Outsiders tracking data, Cousins averaged 10.4 yards per attempt when throwing out of play-action and 7.2 YPA on non play-action throws.

The Vikings have similar splits this year, with 9.6 YPA on play-action and 6.5 without play-action.

Sean McVay, now the Rams’ head coach behind Jared Goff’s magical turnaround, designed Cousins’ offense similarly to the way Jackson set up Dalton’s scheme: To get the ball to playmakers on short throws and hit intermediate routes when they are open.

Washington’s QB made 65% of his attempts under 10 yards and had great numbers on intermediate throws, posting a 101.8 rating on tosses between 11-20 yards.

Like Dalton in 2015 and Keenum this year, Cousins in 2016 had a star left tackle in Pro Bowler Trent Williams and a great supporting cast of weapons. His running game averaged 4.5 yards per attempt and his receiving corps was made up of DeSean Jackson – the league’s premier deep threat over the past decade, Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder and two top-notch tight ends in Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis.

Washington used multiple tight end sets to force opponents into their base package, then they ran play-action. On throws with two tight ends in the game, Cousins had a 113.4 rating.

Despite his great numbers, Fahey ranked him 20th in accuracy rating, suggesting he received help in the form of great plays by receivers and tight ends or was often hitting open targets.

This may be behind Washington’s decision not to move heaven and earth to sign Cousins to a long-term contract – though they made elect to do so after this year.

Josh McCown

Dec 9, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Josh McCown (12) throws a pass during the third quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

McCown’s solid play this year might be even more surprising than Keenum’s performance. He’s managed a 93.7 quarterback rating with the Jets at age 38. But it’s not this season that compares to Keenum, it’s back when McCown played for the Chicago Bears in 2013. In five starts, he posted an incredible 13 touchdowns, one interception and 109.0 quarterback rating.

Over the rest of his career, McCown has 80 touchdowns and 76 INTS.

During that brief brush with brilliance, McCown had an incredible set of players in his corner, highlighted by receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery along with running back Matt Forte and tight end Martellus Bennett. Combined the two top receivers grabbed 189 passes and Forte added another 74 receptions.

Head coach Marc Trestman got McCown rolling on a similar plan as Cincinnati, Washington and Minnesota have used with their smart, yet limited quarterbacks. Of his 244 total throws, 145 were under 10 yards (59%) and he managed a terrific 121.8 rating on intermediate throws.

A Bears analysis website wrote this of the offense shortly after McCown took over for Injured Jay Cutler:

“The [Trestman] West Coast is pretty QB-friendly: know the play, read the coverage, take the open man, repeat. While hanging a QB rating of 119.6 on Washington isn’t anything too big to brag about given their bad year on defense, McCown looked plenty capable of throwing a catchable ball in the safest direction

Small sample size played a role in the Tampa Bay Bucs believing in McCown and signing him to start the next year. Football Outsiders noted that during his five-game run, McCown had the highest DVOA (an adjusted yards statistic) under pressure – a number that collapsed the following season.

We won’t know for awhile if the same is coming for Keenum or if he can continue to post good numbers like Cousins has this year.

The post Who are the NFL’s most comparable quarterbacks to Case Keenum? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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