Houston quarterback Case Keenum may be a mystery to most of the Chiefs, but not to wide receiver Donnie Avery.
Keenum, who will make his NFL debut on Sunday against the Chiefs, was Avery’s quarterback for his senior season at the University of Houston, and they still work out together in the offseason.
“He was pretty good,” Avery said of Keenum, who is still ranked as college football’s most prolific passer, setting NCAA records for career yardage (19,217) and touchdowns (155). “He’s a good athlete, very smart, very agile.”
Avery caught 91 passes for a Conference USA record 1,456 yards when playing with Keenum in 2007 and was a second-round draft pick by St. Louis and the first wide receiver taken in the 2008 draft.
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But Keenum, listed at 6 feet 1, went undrafted, signed with the Texans as a rookie free agent and spent all of 2012 on the practice squad before getting the nod to replace injured Matt Schaub on Sunday.
“It’s all about measurements in the NFL,” Avery said. “I think that’s what got him.”
Chiefs nose tackle Dontari Poe, who played at Memphis, faced Keenum several times in college.
“He can throw,” Poe said. “They ran a spread offense. He can move, he has good legs and a good arm.”
Chiefs inside linebacker Derrick Johnson said the Chiefs studied Keenum’s play in the preseason.
“They’re going to still have their same attack,” Johnson said, “but you’ve got to factor in he’s a guy who can run a little bit. I’m sure they’re going to get him moving a little bit, but they’ve got a horse back there (Arian Foster) running the ball, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re going to try to run it a lot.”
The Chiefs are about as healthy as they’ve been all season. Free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle), tight end Anthony Fasano (ankle/knee) and cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee) all participated fully in Friday’s practice. Fasano and Flowers were listed as probable to play in Sunday’s game but Lewis is questionable.
Fasano has missed the last four games and Flowers two of the last three games.
The Texans have ruled out two players for Sunday: linebacker Tim Dobbins (hamstring) and Schaub (ankle, foot).
Field position advantage
Punter Dustin Colquitt leads the NFL with 19 punts inside the 20 and kicker Ryan Succop has 23 touchbacks in 34 kickoffs. Those two performances, plus the Chiefs’ ability to return kicks and take the ball away, has resulted in the NFL’s best average starting position on offense and opponents’ worst on defense.
The Chiefs’ average starting position for 79 offensive possessions is their 35.4-yard line. The opponents have started 82 possessions at their 21.9.
“Right now, we’re happy with where we’re at,” special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. “We’re creating field position for offense and defense and that’s what special teams is all about.”
With the kickoff for Sunday’s Chiefs-Houston game moved from noon to 3:25 p.m., the club announced the following adjustments to the pregame schedule:
Parking lots will open at 10 a.m., the club level will open at 12:30 p.m., and stadium gates will open at 1:30 p.m.
Also, the Draft Room, located on the south side of Arrowhead Stadium and to the west of the Tower Gate, will open at noon. The Draft Room has more than 25 LCD televisions showing the early NFL games. It features $5 draft beer, $4 refillable soda and complimentary popcorn specials between noon and 1:30 p.m.
Turning it over
The Texans rank No. 7 in the NFL in offense and No. 1 in the league in defense. So how have they lost four straight and sit 2-4 going into Sunday’s game?
Houston’s 15 turnovers are tied for the second-most in the NFL behind the Giants’ 23; and their minus-12 in the turnover differential is second-worst to New York’s minus-16. The Chiefs lead the NFL with 18 takeaways and are a plus-12.
“There are so many things with turnovers,” said Houston coach Gary Kubiak, whose quarterbacks have thrown five interceptions returned for touchdowns in five straight games, an NFL record. “You talk about protecting the football and then there are so many things with turnovers … the details, protecting the football and then you get to a point, are you talking about it too much, are you pressing?
“It gets down to situational football. That’s what I talk about. Understanding situations, understanding when you may take a chance with a ball. We talk about situational football being better. We continue to put ourselves in poor position because of our helping other people.”