But in a quirk of preseason scheduling, the fact that the Minnesota Vikings will be on the other sideline means the Broncos will have a bit of "it’s not you, it’s me" kind of history with almost every other quarterback who will suit up in the game.
“The story obviously on Saturday is going to be the Broncos versus the Vikings, not player versus player,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “We have goals going into those games, and obviously it’s not dependent on who we’re playing. It’s about the Broncos in preseason.”
Maybe so in the big picture, but the Broncos picked Keenum over Kirk Cousins in the free-agency whirlwind this past March as much as the Vikings picked Cousins over Keenum. The Broncos signed Keenum to a two-year, $36 million deal, as team president of football operations/general manager John Elway said he thought Keenum had a better year than Cousins did last season.
For his part, Cousins was more than happy to sign a three-year, $84 million contract with the Vikings.
Keenum will play two series at most, as likely will Cousins, but the football drama continues down the depth chart. Trevor Siemian beat out Paxton Lynch for the Broncos’ starting job in back-to-back training camps, and the Broncos then traded Siemian to the Vikings this offseason to clear the way for Lynch to be Keenum’s backup. But Keenum’s still avoiding his own drama.
“I love all of those guys,” Keenum said of the Vikings. “I know those guys are going to be jacked to get back on the field just like I’m jacked to get back on the field. But yeah, no bad feelings.”
Keenum is still the headliner, and while the coming-out party will be brief, he has done little to temper the growing expectations for him, even from his own teammates, as he has been accurate, bold and consistently productive on the practice field. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is the longest-tenured Broncos player and he has caught passes from a long list of Denver quarterbacks that began with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow in 2010.
And Thomas said Keenum “has that air about him.’’ The Broncos have also reaped some early benefits of announcing that Keenum was the unquestioned starter from the moment he arrived in March.
He has acted like the starter, and the team has treated him like the starter, no small thing for a team that watched the Siemian-Lynch competition unfold right up until the start of the regular season in each of the previous two years.
“You can’t replace that feeling,’’ Thomas said. “Everybody knows who [the starter] is. Now we just have to go play and do the things we want to do.’’
Ah, there is that. Keenum is as eager as the Broncos for him to show that his career year in 2017 with the Vikings -- 3,547 yards passing and 22 touchdowns -- was just the beginning of consistently big things. As Keenum prepares to be an unquestioned starter for the first time in his seven seasons, he wants Saturday’s performance, albeit brief, against his former team to get things started on the right foot.
“I’ve got a lot of things that I’m really excited about,’’ Keenum said. “For me, I’m probably going to have to make sure I take deep breaths and calm myself down, don’t get too excited.’’