RUSSELL: Why Case Keenum is the true No. 1 QB right now

Chris Russell
August 06, 2019 - 12:35 pm
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The Redskins depth chart says Colt McCoy is the No. 1 quarterback entering Thursday night's preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns. 

That's great. Except, it shouldn't be that way and it probably isn't in reality. 

Case Keenum should be listed first (for whatever it's worth) and should start Week 1 in Philadelphia. 

The first chart of the season was released by the organization on Sunday and indeed, it is not worth much, at least according to Jay Gruden

"It's early and I was forced to make it," Gruden told reporters on Monday in Richmond. "I wouldn't have made a depth chart right now. There's no reason, it's silly. That's for the media and for me to come up and answer these questions, but really that's all it is. It's words on a piece of paper, names on a piece of paper and an order that means nothing at this point." 

Many observers that have been in Richmond for every practice have said that all three quarterbacks have been good at times, but sloppy at others. 

Offensive line issues and a good defense have certainly contributed to the bad tasting soup that the offense appears to be. 

Nobody should be jumping to any hard conclusions about anything at this point, but if I can give an educated opinion on the Redskins quarterback dilemma, I would be willing to bet the veritable fortune of Chris Lingebach on Case Keenum being under center as the NFL's 100th season begins. 

Why? That's a complicated answer, but let's peel back the layers of this pungent onion. 

Colt McCoy knows the offense better and clearly is the most mentally comfortable. 

He's a great backup and emergency option but as has been proven time and time again, he cannot stay healthy and is a high-event thrower. He'll make some big plays and he'll drive you crazy with turnovers. 

He's a nice guy who has been loyal in waiting for his chance, but in order to get that chance, he must prove he can stay healthy for a sustainable amount of time. 

He hasn't. 

McCoy has been passed over several times as the starter, for Kirk Cousins and Alex Smith,  but when he has been given the opportunity, his body and style of holding onto the ball too long has led to bad news. 

McCoy missed the end of practice on Monday in Richmond after a fall, because of "precautionary reasons" as the Redskins termed it. He was expected to meet with the media but needed treatment instead. 

No big deal, you say? He still has plenty of time to heal up, right? 

His track-record of recovery is not exactly a positive one. He had multiple procedures after a slight crack in his leg suffered in early December of last year. There may be other nefarious reasons at work for that (questionable medical procedures) but the reality is this: Something kept McCoy from being healthy enough to be ready to go for the offseason program. 

That something, combined with a history of injuries in both Washington and Cleveland, basically every chance he's received to be a starter, has to weigh heavily on the mind of Jay Gruden and whoever else is making this decision. 

If I'm making that choice, there's no way I can trust that McCoy will stay healthy for even one full game, never mind have the intention to get him through 16. 

Unfortunately for McCoy, he should not be the starter for the Redskins. 

Case Keenum should be the No. 1 at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 1 and I believe he already is in the mind of coaches. 

He's smart. He's experienced and he's healthy. He also helped the Minnesota Vikings get to the NFC Championship game less than two years ago. 

The Redskins can do better in terms of top-end talent than Keenum. That's why they drafted Dwayne Haskins. He's not ready yet and he won't be to start the season, no matter what anybody says on the record. 

If you make McCoy the starter because he was the best of a sloppy bunch, you're exchanging knowledge of the system for common sense. 

Want more? Keenum's career interception percentage is 2.3% compared to McCoy's 2.9%. His career yards per pass attempt is slightly higher than McCoy's, 6.9 to 6.6. Keenum's career completion percentage of 62.0% is better than McCoy's 60.5%. 

McCoy has been sacked once per every 11.79 pass dropbacks in his career. Keenum has been sacked once every 18.5 dropbacks, which is a huge difference on an offense that will likely be without Trent Williams and will have a major question mark at left guard. 

Keenum and McCoy have similar styles, but one can stay on the field and one hasn't been able to.  Keenum has played in 31 of a possible 32 games over the last two seasons. 

If McCoy is the starter based on knowledge and perhaps a slightly better training camp performance, how do you get Keenum ready to play if/when McCoy gets hurt? He won't get anywhere near the amount of practice reps that he needs in the final two weeks of August and the build-up to the regular season grind. 

McCoy already knows what he needs to know. He can stay sharp physically, while hopefully staying healthy if something happens to Keenum. 

Haskins might even be inactive on game days to start the season. 

Remember this: You're going to hear a lot about McCoy being the No. 1 quarterback for the Redskins. None of it matters and it shouldn't be what you believe. 

Follow Chris Russell on Twitter. 

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