Rams to start Case Keenum in preseason opener

Jared Goff was, to the Rams, worth selling the farm to move up to select him. But that value is also enough to keep the organization from forcing him into the starting lineup, at least for Week 1 of the preseason.

Former University of Houston star and current middling quarterback Case Keenum will start for the Rams against the Dallas Cowboys in their return to Los Angeles at the Coliseum on Aug. 13, coach Jeff Fisher said Friday.

What a bummer for those Rams fans and their shiny, new No. 16 jerseys, right? Wrong, says NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks, who went to Rams camp and witnessed Goff's current progress as a professional quarterback.

Brooks said it was clear that Goff, who ran a simpler system at California, "still has a long way to go before he reaches the standard needed to wrestle the starting job from Keenum."

This is no reason to panic. There's a learning curve at every position in professional football, with none greater than under center, where quarterbacks need to master, as Brooks says, three key areas: communication, coverage identification and judgment. Oh, and don't forget the increased speed of the game.

While the buzz surrounding the Rams and their return to Los Angeles centers on Goff (because what team doesn't have a future-is-so-bright-you-gotta-wear-shades outlook when it drafts a fresh face of the franchise?) and spreads outward, there's no reason to rush the source of hope on the field if you don't need to. Fisher's seat isn't all that warm, thanks in part to the drafting of Goff. The rookie has the physical tools to become a star passer, so rushing him onto the field and sacrificing his development would be foolish, especially when Brooks believes Goff needs "time to learn the management skills needed to start for a competitive team."

"Taking all of this into account, I think it's sensible for Fisher to officially name Keenum the starter and stick with him through at least the first half of the season," Brooks wrote. "The veteran not only gives the Rams the best chance to win right now, but the team believes in his talent and leadership skills.

"Speaking to several offensive players, I repeatedly heard the word 'gamer' and 'winner' in reference to the 28-year-old Keenum. In fact, one Rams receiver said the offense would thrive in 2016 with Keenum at the helm, even though everyone expects Goff to eventually become a 'baller' at the position."

It's the season of the greatest optimism. Every offense is primed to produce. But this isn't about Keenum's output -- it's about ensuring Goff's long-term success. And so far, the Rams are wisely playing for the future.

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