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Houston's Keenum making push for backup QB spot

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HOUSTON (AP)

(Eds: Adds details; quotes.)By KRISTIE RIEKENAP Sports Writer

Case Keenum spent last season on Houston's practice squad after a record-setting career nearby at the University of Houston.

This season, a solid camp has the quarterback vying with T.J. Yates to back up Matt Schaub.

Keenum and Yates have been splitting snaps this week in practice with Schaub out following a death in his family. Coach Gary Kubiak said Schaub's absence is like having an extra preseason game to evaluate his two young quarterbacks before he makes a decision.

Yates came in second in Houston's first preseason game, but Kubiak said he'll give Keenum that role on Saturday against the Dolphins. He wants the pair to get equal time to give each one a chance to earn the spot.

It doesn't really matter to Keenum when he comes in, he just wants to compete. Keenum completed 13 of 18 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown in Houston's preseason opener at Minnesota.

''I know I'm going to get a chance,'' Keenum said. ''No matter what time of the game it is, it's still running the offense and going against Miami's defense. Whatever it is, whenever it is, I just need to be ready to go and do my job when my turn comes up.''

Keenum loves that he's been able to get extra work in this week at practice.

''You've got to take advantage of it and make the most of it and step in and try to make it like nobody knows that (Schaub is out),'' he said. ''The offense continues to move - smooth mechanics. I think that's part of being a backup quarterback.''

Keenum finished his college career as the NCAA's all-time leader in total yards passing with 19,217 and passing touchdowns with 155. Despite those eye-popping numbers, he went undrafted, joined the Texans as a free agent and was eventually signed to the practice squad.

Kubiak has been impressed with the improvement of Keenum in his second year in the system, and ticked off the many ways he's grown.

''Confidence. Knowing what he's doing,'' Kubiak said. ''Now, he's mastered another system and he wants to go compete. He does it every day. Every day, Case makes four or five instinctive plays you can't coach. He's making a lot of progress.''

That confidence has Keenum beginning to look like the player he was when he led the most prolific offense in the country while starting four seasons for the Cougars. Now that he's comfortable in Houston's offense he's able to improvise more than he did last year.

''That's part of the game, being able to move around and make plays,'' he said. ''Doing things off schedule I think is very important. It's a quarterback position so I got to keep working on that, being able to implement my reads within the movement of the offense.''

Yates appeared in four games last season but had just 38 yards passing. As a rookie in 2011, he started the last five regular-season games and helped the Texans to their first-ever playoff win after Schaub had a season-ending injury. But Kubiak doesn't think his past work should factor into the competition this year.

''It's a new team. It's time to start over,'' Kubiak said. ''They all start from square one and T.J. understands that and so does Case. This is a really good deal for them because they got put in a tough spot. Quarterback is not here, go lead the team. Everybody's looking at them. Some good reactions, some bad reactions.''

NOTES: Houston G Wade Smith had arthroscopic knee surgery on Tuesday morning. ''We took an aggressive approach to clean it up,'' Kubiak said. ''He's already done. Everything went good, so now we start the process of coming back. It's going to be a day-to-day deal right now, but he's got some work to do to get back.''... Schaub should return to practice on Wednesday.

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Online:

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Tagged: Texans, Matt Schaub, T.J. Yates, Case Keenum

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