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Time to See Keenum as 2017 Quarterback

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October 26, 2017

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It might be time to start seeing Case Keenum as the Vikings starting quarterback for the remainder of this season. The Vikings, 5-2, will have played six games with the former backup as their starter after Sunday’s game in London, but fans view Keenum as an emergency and temporary part.

Keenum, 29, had never started more than nine games in his four-year NFL career when he signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Vikings last offseason. Yet he has been a godsend to the Vikings who have had to play the entire first half of the season without 2015 starter Teddy Bridgewater, and have had 2016 regular Sam Bradford for just a game and a half.

“We brought him here to win games,” said Kyle Rudolph, Vikings tight end. “In this league there aren’t many teams that go all 16 games and their starting quarterback goes out there every week.”

Keenum is 3-2 as the team’s starter and has been mostly good—and at least serviceable—leading an offense that includes a new line and is without potential star rookie running back Dalvin Cook, who is injured and out for the season. Keenum has thrown for 1,322 yards and five touchdowns as the Vikings near the half-way point of their 16 game regular season. He also has a career high 89 passer rating.

Case Keenum (photo courtesy of Minnesota Vikings)

Projected over a full season, Keenum’s 2017 numbers would compare favorably with Bridgewater’s totals in his first two seasons in the NFL. Keenum also throws a better deep ball than what the Vikings saw in the past from Bridgewater. Keenum’s passing is part of the reason wide receiver Adam Thielen is having a career season and ranks among NFL leaders in receptions and yards.

Bridgewater, after missing last season with a devastating knee injury, is practicing again and is a fan favorite. There’s a perception he should soon replace Keenum as the starter. Bridgewater, though, only began formal practices with the team last week and hasn’t played in a game since August of 2016. Even if he can move well enough to protect himself, there should be concerns about his timing and rhythm throwing the ball.

Bradford hasn’t played since that nightmare first half against the Bears on October 9. He was then trying to play for the first time in almost a month but his painful knee wouldn’t allow him to effectively pass, or avoid pass rushers. Bradford and the Vikings are quiet about details regarding his knee injury, and it’s anyone’s guess whether he plays again this season.

Both Bradford and Bridgewater will be rusty when—or if—they return to the field. The Vikings, led by perhaps the NFL’s best defense, are the favorite to win the NFC North with the players who are available. Those players include a quarterback who unexpectedly could be leading the offense in the playoffs while Bridgewater and Bradford watch from the sidelines.

Rudolph believes Keenum is “going a great job” as the QB. “He’s our quarterback,” Rudolph said. “We just approach each and every week as if he’s going to be the guy. It’s up to other people to decide (coaches as to who starts), and that’s the way I think he approaches it, which is why he has had success.”

Worth Noting

While the Vikings return to London this week for the first time since 2013, Keenum was there last year quarterbacking the Rams. He threw four of his 11 interceptions for the season in a loss to the Giants, but doesn’t blame the long travel to London for the bad day. “No, it was just poor decisions,” he said yesterday.

Keenum is reportedly on a one-year contract with the Vikings worth $2 million.

Sunday’s game will be the fourth NFL game this season in London. The closest victory has been by 20 points, and the Browns, 0-7 this season, could lose by more than three touchdowns to the Vikings.

Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks after being asked what he planed to do on the eight hour airplane ride to London: “Sleep.”

Darrell Thompson

Darrell Thompson, the Gophers career rushing leader and now color analyst on the football team’s radio network, speaks to the CORES lunch group Thursday, November 9 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Bloomington, 1114 American Blvd. Thompson is president of Minneapolis headquartered Bolder Options, the nonprofit youth mentoring organization. Reservations for the Thompson lunch and program need to be made by Monday, November 6. Contact Jim Dotseth, dotsethj@comcast.net.

Former Gophers receiver Chester Cooper received an award and recognition yesterday from Hennepin County attorney Mike Freeman for his contributions and accomplishments as the county’s community corrections director. Cooper caught the last Gophers touchdown pass ever at Memorial Stadium in a season closing game in 1981 against Wisconsin. The Gophers moved into the Metrodome for the 1982 season.

Jackson Erdmann, the former Penn State walk-on quarterback from Rosemount High School now playing for Saint John’s, is second among all NCAA Division III passers with an efficiency rating of 191.5 this season. After last Saturday’s 320 yards passing and five touchdowns, the sophomore was named the MIAC Offensive Player of the Week.

The Green Bay basketball team that plays the Gophers November 5 in an exhibition game at Maturi Pavilion to benefit the American Red Cross hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico is predicted by Athlon’s college basketball magazine to finish sixth in the 10 team Horizon League. The Phoenix roster includes guard and Wisconsin native Sandy Cohen who the Gophers once targeted as a prep recruit. The Marquette transfer is eligible to play in his first game December 21. The Phoenix has a home exhibition game Monday against Ripon before travelling to Minneapolis.

Seating for the November 5 game is general admission and tickets are priced at $10 each. Gopher Score members and University of Minnesota student season ticket holders were able to access a special pre-sale this morning. General public tickets, based on availability, go on sale next Tuesday at 9 a.m.

The Minnesota Wild practice at Bloomington Ice Garden on Sunday starts at 11 a.m. and the inventory of complimentary tickets for fans is gone. Festivities will include presentation of a $75,000 check from Kraft for improvements to the facility.

Bravo to the Dodgers and Astros for playing their opening World Series game Tuesday night in two hours and 28 minutes, reportedly the fastest series game since 1992. Baseball’s yawning pace has been creeping on for decades. When the Twins and Dodgers played in their 1965 seven-game World Series, the briefest game was two hours and six minutes, while the longest was 2:34.

Last night’s World Series game clocked in at 4:19.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers.

Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section.

A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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