Texans get closer look at backup QBs

HOUSTON -- A question to Houston Texans backup quarterback T.J. Yates about Case Keenum's status in Houston, elicited a smile from Yates and a “hometown hero.”

“Everybody knows he's got a lot of fans in this town,” Yates said. “He's done a lot for (his) school. He's one of the most prolific college quarterbacks in college football history. He's got a lot of history around here. Got a lot of fans. It's good for the football team.”

Does that make things awkward for him?

“No, I don't really think about it,” Yates said. “Just go out there every single day and compete against the same guy.”

With Matt Schaub out Monday and Tuesday morning (Kubiak said Schaub had a death in his family), the Texans got a better look at both Yates and Keenum. Preseason is a time when observers get excited about a team's backup quarterbacks, especially in an environment where the starter has caused some angst. But let's be clear on one thing: Schaub's starting job is not in danger.

“They want to eventually get an opportunity to be a starter (for) one of 32 teams in this league,” quarterbacks coach Karl Dorrell said. “They're here with the Texans and I think that's their goal. And they know that they're not real close to doing that right now.”

That's not an overly bold statement at this point.

Keenum, the former University of Houston quarterback, spent last season on the practice squad, after John Beck beat him out for a roster spot. Beck was cut shortly thereafter, but Keenum remained on the practice squad as he learned the intricacies of the Texans offense and how things change when you aren't in the shotgun constantly. He came into camp this year with a better handle of the Texans' offense and more confidence.

Yates, in his third year out of North Carolina, has also taken a step since last season. But his health has had something to do with that, Dorrell said.

“He had a nagging injury that bothered him most of the season last year, that tendonitis in his elbow,” Dorrell said. “I just think he's a different player. He throws the ball, he has great velocity. He can make all the throws. I know his confidence is a lot greater this year than last year because he's healthy. Case, he's just gotten better because he's learned our system. … I'm pleased with both of them.”

It's important to keep perspective when listening to praise or critiques of players. In this case, improvement is good for both, but isn't wise to overanalyze. Overall, Yates has played better than Keenum, and since the Texans have decided to switch their order of appearance Saturday, they'll have equal samples by which to judge them.