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Keenum has been NFL's best QB outside the pocket this season

 

 

As the Vikings try to get their offensive line back to full health following a loss to the Carolina Panthers in which they were missing three of their five starters, they can at least prepare for the Cincinnati Bengals knowing they’ve got a quarterback whose mobility is good enough to make plays from places other than a clean pocket.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, Case Keenum has the NFL’s highest passer rating on throws outside the pocket this season, checking in with a rating of 120.6. He’s ahead of Carson Wentz — who might have been a NFL MVP favorite before tearing his ACL on Sunday — as well as past MVPs Matt Ryan and Tom Brady.

Some of those throws have come on designed plays to get Keenum outside the pocket, or on plays where the quarterback can break outside to buy himself time for receivers to get open. Others, however, have come on plays where Keenum has been flushed from the pocket, like on Sunday, when he stepped up and to his left on 3rd-and-11 to find Adam Thielen for a 12-yard gain. Perhaps Keenum’s best play of the day came in the second quarter on Sunday, when he managed to duck under a corner blitz from the 5-foot-9 Captain Munnerlyn, escape to his right and find Kyle Rudolph for a 13-yard gain.

We’ll know more about the health of the Vikings’ offensive line when they hold their first practice of the week on Wednesday. It’d seem likely that Reiff will miss at least some practice time as he tries to return from a left ankle injury that coach Mike Zimmer said on Monday “isn’t as bad as [Reiff] thought.” Mike Remmers also told our Andrew Krammer on Monday that he hopes to practice this week — though it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to play Sunday — and center Pat Elflein said on KFAN on Tuesday that he’s optimistic he’ll play against the Bengals after sitting out on Sunday with a shoulder injury that limited him in practice last week.

Things will be easier for the Vikings the sooner they get their offensive line healthy, but they always can use rolling pockets to help counteract pass rushes behind a makeshift line. Keenum’s mobility provides another tool at offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s disposal. And as ESPN pointed out on Tuesday, nobody has been more effective when they’ve broken the pocket than Keenum has this season.

Vikings sign tackle Storm Norton to practice squad

(Storm Norton/Minnesota Vikings photo)

The Vikings have signed tackle Storm Norton to the practice squad, and released safety Jack Tocho, the team announced Tuesday.

Norton, a rookie out of Toledo, was last on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad. He was an undrafted free agent signed by the Detroit Lions and spent training camp in Detroit.

He adds depth to the Vikings’ at offensive line, where injuries have cropped up in recent weeks. Starting right tackle Mike Remmers said he plans to return to practice this week after being out since Nov. 29.

In the 31-24 loss to the Panthers on Sunday, the Vikings ended the game with just one starter in his regular position — right guard Joe Berger. Center Pat Elflein did not play (shoulder) and left tackle Riley Reiff left the game with an ankle injury.

Norton earned first-team All-MAC honors was a part of an offensive line unit at Toldeo that allowed just five sacks on 411 passing attempts.

Tocho, from North Carolina State, was released from the practice squad to make room for Norton.

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