KUSA – Step aside, rookies.
Enough indignant chatter about Paxton Lynch's state of relaxation.
This is Case Keenum’s show now.
When the Broncos begin organized team activities (OTAs) on Tuesday, it will be Keenum leading the first-team offense against a Denver defense for the first time since the quarterback signed a two-year, $36 million contract in March.
“I think the two years is an opportunity for me to continue to prove myself as a starting quarterback, as a franchise quarterback, and as someone that a team and a franchise can count on,’’ Keenum said at his introductory press conference two months ago.
Keenum is the reason for the Broncos to believe they can dramatically improve from their woeful 5-11 season of 2017.
The Broncos’ trio of quarterbacks last year – Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Lynch -- combined for a 73.0 passer rating, which ranked No. 31 in the 32-team NFL. Only 0-16 Cleveland got worse quarterback play.
Keenum with the Minnesota Vikings last season posted the league’s 7th-best passer rating at 98.3.
More specifically, the Broncos quarterback issue was turnovers. The Broncos were one of only two teams who threw more interceptions (22) than touchdowns (19) in 2017. Again, only the sad-sack Browns (15 TDs, 28 INTs) had a worse TD-to-interception ratio.
Keenum threw 22 touchdowns against just 7 picks, the league’s fifth-best ratio.
“I think the bigger thing is just the veteran quarterback presence,’’ said tight end Jeff Heuerman. “We haven’t really had a whole lot of that the past couple of years. Just having the veteran quarterback presence and how he leads and how he manages things is huge.”
Heuerman will be Keenum’s No. 1 tight end, with Jake Butt mixing in. Keenum’s offensive line, from left to right, will be Garett Bolles, Ron Leary, Matt Paradis, Connor McGovern (with Menelik Watson rotating in), and Billy Turner (until Jared Veldheer is cleared from last season’s ankle injury).
Devontae Booker will be the running back with De’Angelo Henderson getting his turns if he’s recovered sufficiently from last week’s violent vehicle collision. (Third-round rookie Royce Freeman figures to eventually work his way into a first-team reps). Andy Janovich is the fullback when the position is called upon.
Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are the top two receivers. The stiffest competition will be at No. 3 receiver where Carlos Henderson, Isaah McKenzie and rookies Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton can earn the spot while Jordan Taylor recovers from offseason hip surgery.
In Keenum, the Broncos will eventually find out if they’re struggles in 2017 were about the quarterback, or the team around the quarterback.
“He’s a leader,’’ Sanders said. “Every single pass that he’s thrown so far—I wouldn’t say ever single—but a majority of the passes, 95 percent or 98 percent, have been there.
“He’s confident in himself. He’s one of those guys that when he steps into the huddle, he’s that leader. You don’t have to second guess what his thought process is. We’re going to complete this ball. We’re going to keep the ball moving. I’m liking what I’m seeing from him so far.”