By Erick Trickel
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (247 SPORTS) – Leonard Williams played the role of Von Miller against the Denver Broncos, single-handedly wrecking shop. The New York Jets’ star defensive end posted 2.5 sacks and three quarterback hits amid a 34-16 blowout victory Sunday.
More concerning than Williams’ on-field harassment of Case Keenum was his off-field assessment of the Broncos signal-caller.
“There were a few times when we hit him … even if it wasn’t a sack. We were getting to him a lot. He seemed really uncomfortable,” he said, via the New York Daily News. “There were times when we wouldn’t even get to him and he would just get scared and throw the ball away. There would be nobody over there. That’s the best thing you could do as a defense: Get in the head of the offense flustered like that.”
Keenum delivered his best performance since Week 1 — which isn’t saying a lot — snapping a three-game touchdown-less streak and passing for 377 yards on 35-of-51 completions. He was under duress for most of the game, however, sacked four times and pressured countless others.
In a loss that reminded so many of 2017, Keenum indeed went into a shell as the abuse came. A once-over of the game film shows him misfiring on simple passes and failing to step up into the pocket. Because Keenum so evidently heard footsteps upon dropping back, he rarely took shots down the field, save for a garbage-time flurry in the fourth quarter.
Put simply: The Jets lived rent-free in his head.
“There’s always going to be some different things. Todd Bowles is known for rushing the passer and doing things to confuse quarterbacks and pass protections,” Keenum said. “There were a few new things, but it’s no excuse. I’ve got to do better identifying that stuff and getting the ball out on time. There’s a few plays that I know specifically, even from the pictures I could see I had guys running open and I didn’t pull the trigger. I take those sacks. They’re on me. I pride myself on getting the ball out on time and there’s definitely some instances where I didn’t (today).”
The Broncos paid Keenum $36 million, with $25 million fully guaranteed, to represent an upgrade on Trevor Siemian. But the team effectively turned him into his predecessor. Keenum’s developed an ugly habit of holding onto the ball too long, and by his own admission, doesn’t trust his eyes. Denver has little issue between the 20-yard lines, but stall once they reach the red zone, where Keenum is the NFL’s lowest-rated passer (42.5), according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Opponents now realize Keenum is rattled by being hit, changing the complexity of an entire game. While a sieve-like offensive line certainly does no favors, the onus falls on the field general to make those around him better. Otherwise he’s just an infinitely wealthier version of Siemian.
“There were some key drives where I think we had a few first downs to get it going, but then for whatever reason we stalled out, even if it was on their side of the field,” Keenum said. “We weren’t very good on third downs today. We made it tough on ourselves. I think we were averaging third-and-nine plus. It seemed like that. With the schemes they have and the players they have, you’re climbing up hill at that point. We have to do better on first and second down and not put our defense in bad situations. It’s a tough day.”