For some quarterbacks entering their first year with a new team, the task of learning a new offensive system can be a little overwhelming. For Case Keenum, it has become a common occurrence.
“I’ve changed offenses pretty consistently that last four or five years," Keenum said on Tuesday at Redskins OTAs.
Indeed, his journey through new schemes has been a constant throughout his NFL career. Keenum has started 54 games for four different NFL franchises since 2012, getting as far as the NFC Championship Game with the Vikings in 2017. Entering his eighth season as a professional passer, Keenum said he thinks he's learned about "seven or eight" new offenses in that time.
Though having to learn a new system comes with its headaches and more than a fair share of hard work, his recent moves around the league have helped him slow down what can be a hectic portion of his offseason routine. On his third new team in three years, Keenum has seen a lot of different plays, styles and techniques. Because of it, he's learned how to go about integrating himself into a new system.
“I view new offenses, kind of like learning new languages," Keenum said. "Certain offenses, it’s English to Chinese. Certain offenses is like Portuguese to Spanish."
Keenum sees the Redskins offense as Portuguese, and he's already had some experience in Spanish. Therefore, learning the new system doesn't necessarily mean starting from scratch.
It becomes more about finding the small differences between the two offenses. Such as one minor mispronunciation can make all the difference between a compliment and an insult, a small tweak in a play that seems similar can turn a touchdown into an interception.
So far, Keenum seems to be enjoying his lessons in Portuguese.
“I love this system, I really do," Keenum said. "I think Jay’s done a great job putting it together. Kev [O'Connell], Cav [Matt Cavanaugh], Tim [Rattay] all those guys. It’s really well presented and the communication is really good. I think I can thrive in it.”
Part of the reason Keenum's first experiences in the Washington scheme have been positive is due to his growing rapport with the players on the other end of his passes.
Besides receiver Brian Quick, who Keenum spent some time with during his years playing with the then-St. Louis Rams, the Redskins receiving core is an unfamiliar one to the veteran quarterback. Finally able to get some work in with them in the past couple weeks, he likes what he sees.
“I think we got a lot of guys to throw the ball too that I’m really excited about," Keenum said. “Trey Quinn is going to be really special. I love what I’ve seen out of Josh [Doctson]...Vernon [Davis], obviously I’ve never played with a tight end that can do what he does on the football field. There’s a lot of guys.”
While the quarterback may be dealing with a new language and a new group of teammates, there is another aspect of his arrival in Washington that brings back a familiar feeling: competition.
Though his 2018 season in Denver saw him viewed as the main guy the moment he was signed by the Broncos, Keenum has had to compete to earn his time as a starter at most of his stops in the NFL. This year is much of the same. The Redskins may have traded from him in the offseason, but his position as No. 1 on the depth chart is far from guaranteed.
Yet, that isn't a problem for him. Keenum is happy to compete, it's something that he wants to do. Even during his time in Denver the competition was still there, it was just within.
“I compete against myself extremely hard every day, that’s how I’ve treated it since I was a freshman in college, before that," Keenum said. "Competition is no new thing to me, I compete every day against myself.”
The following months will feature a great deal of competition for Keenum. Obviously, Dwayne Haskins is working to be the starter as well, and Colt McCoy will challenge once he's fully recovered from last season's injury. A quarterback battle has begun in Washington and will only grow as training camp approaches.
Keenum knows that, but he's also making sure he doesn't lose track of his main focus.
“My job is to get ready to play and get ready to be the quarterback of the Redskins when my name is called," Keenum said.
With mandatory minicamp over and OTAs coming to a close, Keenum will have six weeks or so to get his body right and continue to study his new language before training camp begins. Even though he admits he doesn't actually know any Portuguese, Keenum does consider himself a pro at learning new offenses at this point in his career.
However, that doesn't mean it's something that comes easily.
There’s no Rosetta Stone for the West Coast offense,” he joked.
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