THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Rams fly to Detroit on Friday to face the Lions at Ford Field early Sunday afternoon. They'll then head directly to London later that night for a matchup the following Sunday against the New York Giants at Twickenham Stadium. And then they'll have their bye week.
This could be a big two-game stretch for Case Keenum.
The Rams won't say so publicly, of course, but their schedule seems to offer an unofficial demarcation line. It could be seen as a natural time for a big-picture assessment of their quarterback situation, specifically whether Keenum should continue to be the guy, or whether it is finally time to pass the ball to Jared Goff, the first overall pick in the 2016 draft.
What it will take for change to actually occur is a question perhaps not even the Rams can answer, though back-to-back losses could certainly push the momentum in Goff's direction.
How much control Keenum himself has on the situation is difficult to decipher.
"Time will tell," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said on a conference call with Lions reporters Wednesday morning, as he has often said when asked about Goff getting a chance to start. "No timetable as far as that's concerned."
Fisher offered more effusive praise of Goff, saying he's "getting better every week" and he's "coming along" and he's "everything that we thought he was going to be."
Rams offensive coordinator Rob Boras said Goff, who turns 22 on Friday, is "not asking rookie questions anymore."
"He's starting to ask those more advanced, if you will, say, the 301- or 401-type questions. So for me it starts there."
Keenum ended Week 5 with the NFL's lowest Total QBR at 33.5, but perhaps that is not all his fault. And perhaps the offense, last in the NFL in yards per game, is indeed trending upward, as Fisher has suggested. The Rams gained a season-high 345 total yards against a talented Buffalo Bills team on Sunday, and Keenum played well, completing 21 of 31 passes while averaging 8.7 yards per attempt. But he did throw two interceptions, one of which was returned for the winning touchdown.
"There’s some key situations that I’d like back," Keenum said after Wednesday's practice. "I think we’re doing good things on offense, but we obviously didn’t take care of the football. And I think that’s a really big deal in this league."
And that might particularly be the case for Keenum, who doesn't necessarily possess the big-play ability to offset the backbreaking turnovers. In other words, if Keenum is going to make costly mistakes -- he's had two interceptions returned for touchdowns in a three-week stretch -- then the Rams might as well turn to Goff, because they have so much invested in him and because rookie quarterbacks are having success all over the league.
"He’s been good, man," said Goff, who trained with Wentz leading up to the draft and shares an agent with him. "I talked to him a couple of weeks ago. He’s done a really good job. I’m happy for him."
But Wentz is far from the only one.
Four other quarterbacks who were drafted after Goff have already started games in the NFL. Paxton Lynch, 26th overall to the Denver Broncos, started for an injured Trevor Siemian on Sunday, posting a passer rating of 81.0 in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Jacoby Brissett, 91st overall to the New England Patriots, started two games because Tom Brady was suspended and Jimmy Garoppolo was hurt, posting 308 yards in the air and 71 on the ground. Cody Kessler, 93rd overall to the Cleveland Browns, started three games after injuries to Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown, posting an 87.9 passer rating before hurting his ribs and chest early in Sunday's game.
And then, of course, there's Dak Prescott, who was drafted 135th overall by the Dallas Cowboys and has been arguably the game's best quarterback while filling in for an injured Tony Romo, ranking second in Total QBR (86.7) and throwing 155 passes without an interception, which surpassed Wentz for the rookie record.
"Every situation is different," Goff said when asked if he's frustrated by having to sit while so many other rookies shine. "All these guys that are doing well right now I’m very happy for. Most of them I’m good friends with, and they’ve done a really good job. I’m very happy for them."
Goff was shaky in the preseason and never really challenged Keenum for the starting spot. He was inactive for the Monday Night Football opener and has been the backup for the following four games, watching the Rams go 3-2 behind a turnover-feasting defense and a sluggish offense. Almost all of Goff's regular-season reps have come with the scout team during practice, which makes it almost impossible to know just how much he has actually improved.
Goff sees it himself, though.
"I’ve felt good every day," he said. "I think I’ve progressed ever since I got here, and I don’t think I’ve ever really plateaued or gone backwards. I think I’ve gotten better every time, every week, every day. So I feel good."