ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Houston Texans need to pick a backup for Matt Schaub. The Dallas Cowboys have to decide whether to keep a third quarterback.
Both issues should be decided when the Texans visit the Cowboys in their preseason finale Thursday night. Most or all of the starters will be sitting for both teams.
Case Keenum will start for Houston, and T.J. Yates will play the second half. Alex Tanney is likely to play most or all of the game for the Cowboys after the release this week of Nick Stephens.
Yates filled in for an injured Schaub late in 2011 and was the starter for the first playoff win in franchise history. But Keenum has been good enough this preseason to challenge him.
"Obviously they’re going to be playing with a bunch of young players, but I think it’s been extremely close," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "I think this game is still important. They’ve continued to get better, each of them, and push each other. I think it’s going to be a good thing for our football team."
Keenum was on the practice squad for the Texans last year after going undrafted despite setting an NCAA record with 19,217 yards passing and 155 touchdowns. He has completed 34 of 50 passes for a team-leading 354 yards. But he still hasn’t played in a regular-season game.
"He understands our offense and you can see that playing under center is second nature for him now, so that was a big change for him a year ago," Kubiak said. "You see some of his athletic ability take over. He’s just come a long way as a pro and he’s very comfortable right now as a player in his own skin."
Yates hasn’t done anything to hurt himself in the preseason, and does have the regular-season and playoff experience of two years ago, and another four games as Schaub’s backup last year.
"They’ve both been very good and in command of what we’re doing and their growth in our offense," Kubiak said. "I probably feel as good as I’ve felt after my starter probably in a long, long time. Like I said, it’s a nice problem to have. We’ll see where we end up here in a week."
The Cowboys didn’t keep a third quarterback behind Tony Romo and Kyle Orton last year, and Orton only played in one game—a blowout loss to Chicago. Alex Tanney didn’t join the team until the start of training camp, but he was impressive enough to pass Stephens.
Tanney’s a YouTube star as well with some trick shot artistry of bouncing footballs off cross bars and throwing them through small openings at tiny Division III Monmouth College in Illinois. That’s not to be confused with Monmouth University in New Jersey, where Cowboys receiver Miles Austin played before signing as an undrafted free agent seven years ago.
Tanney is 23 of 42 passing for 246 yards in the preseason. He probably helped himself the most when he completed his first 10 passes against Arizona and led the only scoring drive.
"It’s obviously easier when you have the whole offseason and you get a lot of reps under your belt and know the offense inside and out," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "But this was his opportunity. I think he’s done a lot of good things to make sure he understands our offense as quickly as he can and hopefully he can take that to the field. He’ll play some in the game Thursday night. And we’ll continue to get a chance to evaluate him."
The Cowboys are not expected to play cornerback Morris Claiborne. The second-year player hasn’t played in a preseason game after jamming his knee in training camp. He returned to practice this week.