ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Jake Plummer knows exactly what Case Keenum is going through.
Plummer was once the newly signed quarterback of the Denver Broncos – the new guy in a locker room full of new teammates trying to figure him out.
And Plummer knows that Keenum needs to move fast to become the kind of leader the Broncos are thirsting to have.
“No coach, no GM, no staff member, can have the chance to lead your guys like (a quarterback), that’s just where the league is,” Plummer said. “And if you’re going to be in that locker room, your guys have to believe in you, have to believe you’re doing what you need to do, that you won’t give up. But this organization is primed for someone to just grab those keys and take off.”
With a two-year, $36-million deal, Keenum needs to start driving. The Broncos believe Keenum’s breakout 2017 season with Minnesota Vikings (3,547 yards passing and 22 touchdowns) and his grit are just the combination they’re looking for in the offense, and his winding path to becoming a starter also gives him the ability to relate to wide variety of teammates.
“I think we were missing some of that leadership at the position last year,’’ said Broncos coach Vance Joseph of the 5-11 campaign that saw three starting quarterbacks. “ … We looked at a lot of things and I think Case has shown he can be that guy.”
The early returns are, well, still early, but the reviews are good, especially in a locker room with plenty of players who were in uniform when the Broncos won Super Bowl 50.
“He’s a leader,’’ said Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. “ … He’s confident in himself. He’s one of those guys that when he steps into the huddle, he’s that leader. You don’t have to second guess what his thought process is.”
Corner Chris Harris Jr. put it more succinctly. “I like him.”
Keenum has made his presence felt in the early weeks of the team’s offseason program, especially as the offense has started to do some on-field work together.
“The biggest thing is you show them right away what you’re about, you get to work, do the things you need to do,” Plummer said. “Before that, maybe they played you on Sunday and that’s what they know about you. Now you show them what you’re about Monday through Saturday, you know? Man, you can’t hide that when you’re in that same locker room, so you have to do the job and work your ass off because nobody is going to give a crap about what you say if you don't.”
Keenum is a player who has been cut three times, by two different teams. He lost the first eight games he started. Through it all, he still prepared himself well enough to have his best season when the Vikings put him in the lineup when Sam Bradford was injured last year.
Now, Keenum’s new teammates talk about that toughness because part of their issues on offense last season revolved around the team’s inability to rebound from mistakes.
One turnover, one penalty, one missed assignment would turn into several and one loss eventually turned into an eight-game losing streak because of it.
“Those guys who play and survive, they get better,” Joseph said. “Most guys who play and don’t survive, they’re out of the league. For [Keenum] to be here at this moment and be our guy, with what he’s gone through … he’s hardened because of that process.”
For Keenum, he is hoping this is the foundation of what happens in the weeks and months to come.
“It’s all part of playing quarterback, the craft of it,” Keenum said. “I’ve said I think you earn the right to be a leader, you can’t just say it, it’s how you approach the job, making that effort to know people beyond the job too. But it starts with how you handle your job as a quarterback and that they know what you’re about and you’re doing all you can to help everybody win.”