Denver Broncos

Vance Joseph wants Case Keenum to play better

The Denver Broncos need to get back on track quickly to make the playoffs, and Case Keenum has to raise his level of play.

After a three-game winning streak put them in the Wild Card conversation, the Denver Broncos’ playoff hopes were dealt a blow with a 20-14 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14. Quarterback Case Keenum has now failed to throw for 200 yards in three straight games, with multiple passing touchdowns just once in the last five contests.

Keenum threw 10 interceptions over the first eight games this season, and he has thrown zero in the last five. His yards per attempt has also reached 7.0 twice in those five games, after he reached that mark in six of the first eight games. Sunday against the 49ers, Keenum set a clear season-low with 4.4 yards per attempt.

Denver’s wide receiver group is depleted, first by the trade of Demaryius Thomas and then a torn Achilles’ for Emmanuel Sanders. But Broncos’ head coach Vance Joseph wants to see Keenum cut it loose a little more.

Throughout what will stand as his career season in 2017, Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was effusive in his praise of Keenum, even referencing the strategic placing of a “horseshoe” at one point. That luck eventually ran out in the playoffs, and confirmed the Vikings needed to find another quarterback for the long haul.

There’s a fine line between taking more chances and taking unnecessary risks. Keenum does have one big target he could rely on to win 50-50 balls, as rookie wide receiver Courtland Sutton stands as 6-foot-4, but other than Denver has a very bare cupboard of unproven pass catchers.

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Joseph may want the 2017 version of Keenum, and it’s true he has to play better over the final three games of the regular season. But that version of Keenum had one of the top wide receiver duos in the league to throw to in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and a play-caller at the top of his game in Pat Shurmur. The Broncos just don’t have those things.

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