HOUSTON – Ryan Fitzpatrick stepped back and telegraphed a pass that cornerback Brandon Harris intercepted along the sideline in a team drill on Monday. Coach Bill O'Brien immediately replaced Fitzpatrick with Case Keenum, who promptly threw a pass to the feet of tight end Ryan Griffin for an incompletion.
Such is the state of the Houston Texans' quarterbacks midway through training camp.
O'Brien reiterated on Monday that Fitzpatrick remains the starter and he's still evaluating Keenum and rookie Tom Savage for the backup roles. None of them showed much in Saturday's 32-0 loss in Arizona — the trio combined to go 11 for 22 for 82 yards.
"You never with the preseason how it's going to go, especially the first time out or anything," Fitzpatrick said. "But we would have hoped to have a better showing."
Houston signed the 31-year-old Fitzpatrick after trading Matt Schaub to Oakland and O'Brien declared him the starter during minicamp. Fitzpatrick played the entire first half in Arizona, completing only 6 of 14 passes for 55 yards and two interceptions. He wasn't happy with the showing, but has also been around long enough to not read too much into a preseason opener.
"I don't think you can let it play with your confidence at all," Fitzpatrick said. "You've just got to take it for what it was, learn from it and move on. It was the first one, I'm disappointed, but we've already moved on and we're out here at practice trying to get better."
Fitzpatrick has become a valuable mentor for Keenum, who's playing in his third training camp after the Texans picked him up as an undrafted free agent in 2012. He moved into a backup role before last season and then started eight games after Schaub was injured.
Keenum's production tailed off after he started off well in his first three games last year. He ended up losing all eight of his starts and sat out the last two games with a thumb injury. The former record-setting quarterback at the University of Houston feels as if he's got a fresh start under O'Brien, although he knows how closely he's being scrutinized.
"This game, there's a lot of pressure every time you step on the field. It's kind of part of the deal," Keenum said. "You don't shy away from it, you don't back down from it, you don't let it affect you. You just go out and perform."
His initial series in Arizona didn't go well, starting with a delay of game penalty before the first snap. Keenum went 3 for 5 for 29 yards in two series and he's eager to make more of an impression in Saturday's game against Atlanta.
"I've got to step up mentally and physically this week," Keenum said. "My decision-making, my mechanics, all that stuff, there are a lot of things that need to get better."
Savage, a fourth-round pick out of Pittsburgh, got only six plays in Arizona and took a hard hit at the end for a safety. He's been too busy learning the demands of the NFL and O'Brien's complex offense to worry much about competing with Keenum.
"Like any rookie, you've got to just come in as early as I can, stay as I can and keep grinding away at it," Savage said. "It's the National Football League, so it's all tough. But it's nothing I can't handle."
The coaches reviewed game film with the team before Monday's practice and Fitzpatrick saw some quick fixes the quarterbacks can make.
"It was a good day to slow it down and to look at what we did wrong and why," he said. "This whole thing is a work in progress. It's a process where we're kind of moving along and we'll continue to get better and hopefully that shows leading up to the season."
NOTES: RB Arian Foster and WR Andre Johnson, who've both missed most of training camp with injuries, worked individually on a separate field Monday. O'Brien is hopeful that both stars will play against Atlanta. ... RB Andre Brown, listed second on the depth chart behind Foster, did not play in the preseason opener. Jonathan Grimes started and rookie Alfred Blue backed up Grimes in Arizona. The Texans ran only 48 offensive plays, not enough snaps to get Brown into the game, O'Brien said.