Braman Goes on the ‘Case’
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - At just over 6-foot and 200 pounds Case Keenum is not exactly straight out of central casting when it comes to being a star quarterback in the NFL.
And that's been a narrative the Texas native has been fighting since he entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Houston Texans back in 2012.
The measurables just weren't there for NFL scouts despite Keenum's prolific run at the University of Houston, where he became the NCAA's all-time leading passer.
Eagles special teams stalwart Bryan Braman was a Pro Bowl alternate on the Texans when Keenum entered the league and quickly developed tremendous respect for the current Minnesota Vikings starter's work ethic.
"Great guy. Real faithful man," Braman said while discussing his old friend at his locker after practice at the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday. "The way he carries himself on and off the field is unbelievable. He's just got that leader's mentality. People just levitate toward him and I believe that has to do with the way he carries himself."
Keenum got an opportunity to play due to circumstance during his sophomore season with the Texans and lost his first eight NFL starts.
"It didn't really have to much to do with him," Braman said. "I think a lot of it had to do with the guys playing around him."
From that point Keenum bounced around as a capable backup, winning his first two starts for Houston in 2014 before moving on to the Rams where he actually finished at .500 (7-7) over the team's move from St. Louis to Los Angeles in 2015-16.
Keenum was chosen by Jeff Fisher to be the bridge to 2016 No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff and that version of the Rams was a heck of a lot better with Keenum than without him.
"I mean if you noticed the organizations he's played with haven't been real great organizations so it's kinds been him fighting an uphill battle his entire career," Braman explained. "[The talent has] always been there."
That finally came out this season in Minnesota where general manager Rick Spielman signed the low-cost veteran as an insurance policy to the oft-injured Sam Bradford.
And sure enough, Bradford tapped out to his chronic knee problems giving Keenum an opportunity to play with a solid supporting cast for the first time.
The results have been remarkable almost like the halcyon days when Keenum was throwing it all over the lot for UH.
The signal caller threw for over 3,500 yards with a completion percentage of nearly 68.0 percent with a gaudy 98.3 passer rating in 14 starts, winning 11 of them. Another came when Keenum came off the bench to save the Vikings in Chicago and the latest 46 million saw and will forever be known as the "Minnesota Miracle."
"[Case] does a great job understanding what his deficiencies are and really working [around] that to be a better player," Braman said. "So that way. you know his size, there is always that talk is he tall enough to see over the line. Does he have the arm strength? He just continues to prove people wrong.
"... Once you get a group of guys together and can really coexist and do things together, that's where you see him shine. That's what he's been doing this year."
Keenum has indeed proven to be a pocket passer with the DNA to extend plays and keep his eyes downfield, giving a talented receiving corps a chance to make plays so much so that his name has even been bandied about in MVP conversations.
Keenum's athleticism surprises some by not Braman.
"They take [the athleticism tag] away from him because he really focuses on being a pocket passer," Braman said. "Somebody who can sit in the pocket, make all the right reads and deliver the ball on time. He's got great touch on the long ball, being able to get it out there and let his receivers go get it."
The Eagles may beat the Vikings on Sunday but it won't be because Minnesota has a QB1 who can't play.
"We were both pretty young when we were in Houston," Braman said. "It was kinda interesting to see him go through his transition being that guy who was an undrafted free agent, led the NCAA in passing, all that stuff. It was really cool to see Houston give him a shot and for him to make it pay off like it has."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen