Case Keenum brings certainty, chemistry to Denver Broncos
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — For the first time since Peyton Manning embarked on his farewell season three summers ago, the Denver Broncos opened training camp Saturday void of any quarterback controversy.
Case Keenum , who signed a two-year, $36 million deal in free agency, took all of the important first-team snaps Saturday, unlike the last two summers when a QB competition droned on, stunting the chemistry and cohesion needed to have success in the regular season.
The Broncos, who haven’t been to the playoffs since Manning retired following their Super Bowl 50 triumph, don’t have to spend training camp wondering who’s going to be their leader, either.
“That’s the beauty of having a guy in place as your starter,” coach Vance Joseph said.
And the lack of QB drama is a welcome reprieve.
“You have one voice on offense,” tight end Jake Butt said. “It’s always good to have a designated leader and a voice and a heartbeat and that’s Case, we all know that. He’s been doing a great job and we’re going to continue to build on the things we did with him in the spring.”
Having a starting QB in place also helps Denver’s defense.
“Knowing we have a good signal caller back there, a proven signal caller, it’s going to keep us off the field a little longer,” linebacker Brandon Marshall said. “Our jobs will be extended, the defense will get to rest a little bit. Every year, we’re just worried about us anyway, but it does affect you in the game. Turnovers, three-and-outs, things like that.
“We’re human beings so of course you try to say, ‘You know what, just go out there, do your job, control what you can control.’ But as human beings, sometimes you get a little ornery, you get a little irritated. That’s just us being humans. I think it’s going to be a good year.”
Keenum, a longtime journeyman who took over in Minnesota last season because of injuries and helped lead the Vikings within one step of the Super Bowl, is entering his first training camp as the designated starter.
“It’s new. I’ve taken everything from my past and I’m applying it now. I think everything that I’ve been through, all the adversity, it’s made me into who I am,” Keenum said. “I’m always constantly learning, too, so I want to learn from these guys.
“They’ve obviously been to where we all want to go. They’ve got the hardware to prove it. I’ve been close enough to taste it and feel it and not get there. That’s what’s driving me. But always learning, always falling back on who I am and not stray too far from that. But I’m always growing and learning and trying to be the leader that this team needs me to be.”
The Broncos are coming off a 5-11 season that sent them tumbling closer to the bottom of the league than the top where they were perched after beating Carolina 24-10 in Manning’s farewell.
Manning was on hand Saturday, chatting up Denver’s new quarterback.
“It’s awesome to have one of the best — if not the best — that’s ever played the game out here just watching practice,” Keenum said.
First-round draft pick Bradley Chubb acknowledged being star-struck, even elbowing Shaq Barrett to say, “That’s Peyton Manning!”
“And he was like, ‘Yeah, I know,’” Chubb recounted.
“He played with him. I didn’t.”
Chubb said he wanted to introduce himself after practice.
“I don’t know where he went though.”
Aside from the ‘Where’s Peyton?’ puzzle, the only QB intrigue in Denver is the battle for the backup job between Paxton Lynch and Chad Kelly.
Lynch is the 2016 first-round pick out of Memphis who was unable to unseat Trevor Siemian and has started four games in two years. Kelly was the final pick in the 2017 draft who has had a strong offseason after “red-shirting” as a rookie while recovering from various injuries.
While Kelly has drawn attention and praise for his offseason work ethic, trimmed-down physique and acumen that have him primed for an upset, Lynch has more jaw-dropping athleticism and general manager John Elway in his corner.
“It’s not about who the backup is, it’s about that backup having the ability to come into a football game,” Elway said.
NOTES: Rookie ILB Josey Jewell missed practice with what Joseph described as a “slight hamstring pull.” … OLB Shane Ray, who opted not to have surgery on his still-mending right wrist that cut short his 2017 season, wore a splint at practice and said he “felt great. No pain, and I was just able to be me.”