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Keim: Kicking problems “cannot happen again”

Posted by Darren Urban on November 6, 2017 – 8:19 am

It turned out not to matter, but it could have, so after Phil Dawson’s missed field goal Sunday — his sixth in eight games — General Manager Steve Keim said the issues with the whole unit have to be fixed. Quickly.

“The hard part is, the preseason and everything we saw out of Phil moving forward, felt like he was going to be a huge addition to this team and bring consistency to that spot,” Keim said Monday on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “For whatever reason, things aren’t clicking right now. We just have to go back to the basics and really dig in and see what’s going wrong and make sure we fix it, because it cannot happen again.”

Coach Bruce Arians blamed a bad snap from long snapper Justin Drescher, and Keim acknowledged the snap was low. Keim also said holder Andy Lee did manage to salvage it. Keim also said he was disappointed in the field-goal unit not only from the kicking standpoint but also in the blocking and the technical aspects.

“(Phil) has got to be held accountable,” Keim said. “In my opinion, when you’re getting paid, you’ve got to make those kicks. I don’t think that’s any secret.”

It does not sound like the Cardinals would consider looking at any kickers at least this week. A short week and a game Thursday plays into that, Keim said.

— There was praise for quarterback Drew Stanton in the win, but Keim also underscored the reality that the Cardinals benefit from the run game — in this case, Adrian Peterson’s career-high/franchise-record 37 carries for 159 yards.

“There’s no doubt we knew we had to run the ball effectively and I don’t think that’s a secret going forward the rest of the season,” Keim said.

— The offensive line did pretty well, particularly left guard Alex Boone and left tackle D.J. Humphries, Keim said. That’s what happens when the team stays committed to the run and balanced offensively. “Give those guys a chance,” Keim said, before acknowledging that it’ll be a tougher task Thursday against the Seahawks.

— Peterson had a second great game in three appearances for the Cardinals “The guy continues to impress me at his age,” Keim said. “Thirty-seven carries is unheard of. As (offensive coordinator) Harold Goodwin said, the more you feed him, the better he gets.”

— Keim did want to see better consistency from the defense, and is still concerned about the red-zone offense and converting touchdowns.

— Keim agreed with the idea Humphries is developing into a potential cornerstone left tackle, reiterating again that Humphries has matured a lot to match mentally his excellent physical talent. “He’s ultra-competitive and he likes to play the game,” Keim said.

— The short week is hard, but there is excitement over playing at home on national TV, he said, and the Cardinals will benefit from the mini-bye after the game.

— There was congratulations for veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby in joining the exclusive 40-sack/20-interception club. But Keim, who has know Dansby his whole career and has a great relationship with him, couldn’t let the moment pass. Keim noted Dansby was given a chance to make a speech post-game in the locker room. “He may be one of the worst speech-givers I’ve ever heard,” Keim deadpanned.


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Keim: Peterson trade example of a “swing”

Posted by Darren Urban on October 16, 2017 – 8:25 am

Steve Keim had looked at all options when David Johnson first got hurt, and that included research on Adrian Peterson. But the push to trade for the veteran running back didn’t come until last week, when Keim said he “picked up the phone and it worked out pretty quickly.”

The “why” of the deal wasn’t complicated.

“I think it’s pretty simple,” Keim said during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “At the end of the day, it made us better. The one thing I am committed to do as the General Manager, and I know Michael (Bidwill) and B.A. (Bruce Arians) is committed to do, we’re not going to sit on our hands if we think we can get better.

“It doesn’t mean we always make the right decisions. I’ve certainly made my mistakes here. But the one thing I’m going to do is I’m going to swing. To me, you can never hit a home run if you don’t step up to the plate and swing. I owe it to the organization, I owe it to the fan base, and that’s the mindset I’m always going to have.”

It was interesting to hear Keim, who mentioned at least a couple of times the “mistakes” he has made as a GM. And as good as Peterson was Sunday, he wasn’t proclaiming the move the end-all-be-all.

“Hopefully it would add a spark to the offense,” was Keim’s thought process. “More than anything, I think we created balance.”

It also helped morale, Keim said.

“It was about igniting a spark and creating an enthusiasm throughout the building, which was infectious the moment we did it on Tuesday,” Keim said.

— Keim said he thought what was overlooked Sunday was the return of the left side of the offensive line. It was going to be difficult, Keim reiterated, no matter who the running back was with all the injuries. Earl Watford already looks like he’ll settle in at right guard, but it was left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Alex Boone who showed what impact they could have.

“For the first time this year, we saw five guys up front playing in unison,” Keim said. “I thought D.J. was excellent. We’ve always know he can run block. His ability to roll his hips and finish at the point of attack is something to me that sets him apart from a lot of other tackles. He and Alex on several of those ‘deuce’ blocks created five- and six-yards of run lanes for Adrian.”

Keim also praised the perimeter blocking of the wide receivers that helped Peterson.

— Keim said there was a lot of discussion with team president Bidwill about Peterson, both on and off the field (including, it stands to reason, the year-long suspension Peterson had after child abuse accusations.) Keim said as with every player, the decision-makers talk through every part of a player, on the field, off the field, in the locker room and in the community. “Both of us were comfortable with that,” Keim said.

— Keim was asked, if he had been GM and not just in the front office in 2007 when the Cards were drafting, if he would have drafted Peterson at No. 5 (The Cards took tackle Levi Brown; Peterson went two picks later.) “You can go back and say that about a lot of different players,” Keim said. “I was not the general manager and I’ve certainly made enough mistakes in the position I’m in now. I’m just trying to take every day, every year and get better at my craft. Hopefully I can put a product on the field that fans can be proud of.”

— About the defense, which allowed a big second half after the Cards built a 31-0 lead before holding on, 38-33: “There is something to be said about momentum,” Keim said. “Part of that momentum we created on offense was a good thing. Now we have to figure out why the momentum issues are happening to us on defense.”

Keim said the defense played well in spurts, but they need to rally better after giving up a big play. (An aside, the Bucs still converted 50 percent on third downs, which continues to be an issue for the defense.) Keim praised Corey Peters, Frostee Rucker and the work of cornerback Tramon Williams. Keim echoed Arians’ thought that Williams should get more playing time. Keim also said safety Antoine Bethea (three picks in three games) doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves.

— Keim said he is confident cornerback Patrick Peterson (quad) will be able to play in London against the Rams.


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Adrian Peterson’s debut, and Bucs aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 15, 2017 – 7:15 pm

The plan started on a private plane, sent by the Cardinals Tuesday to pick up Adrian Peterson in New Orleans and bring him back to Arizona. Running backs coach Freddie Kitchens was on board, so that the return trip to Arizona could be spent on a crash course about the Cardinals’ offense.

“It sounded like Chinese,” Peterson said Sunday, after that five-day tutorial turned into a 134-yard rushing debut.

Peterson said Kitchens walked him through what he needed to learn, calling him at home just to go over things. By the time Peterson got to Sunday, he felt prepared, and he played that way.

Kitchens downplayed his role, saying only that he helped get Peterson in the building. And there is little question Peterson, motivated as he was to do well, had the talent if he knew what was called.

“It was the terminology of the plays,” wide receiver/Peterson landlord Larry Fitzgerald said. “You don’t tell a great back where to run.”

Fitz is going to gush about Peterson. They are friends. But Peterson deserves the praise. Not just for his production, but for the intangible vibe that surrounded this team right about the time Peterson and Kitchens were flying back from Louisiana.

“I wish he’d have been here 11 years from the beginning,” Fitzgerald said. “I’d have a Super Bowl ring already. But having him here, his leadership, his demeanor in the huddle, I think it’s reinvigorating everybody.”

— I can’t lie. I did not expect Peterson to make that kind of impact. I thought the Cards would be better. Not that much better. But when he ripped off two eight-yard runs on his first two carries, I quickly reconsidered.

— Chandler Jones got his sixth sack in six games and got a couple tackles for loss. That doesn’t do his game justice, especially early. He’s had a very good season.

— Still, you want to see the defense finish better. It’ll be interesting to see if Tramon Williams gets more playing time at cornerback.

— And not because of Patrick Peterson’s quad problem. If P2 is down, the Cards will feel it, although Peterson insisted he will be ready to play against the Rams next week. That was a big part of the fourth-quarter problems Sunday. No Patrick. Adrian isn’t the only necessary Peterson.

— The offensive line was better. It wasn’t perfect, but the return of left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Alex Boone, along with Earl Watford taking over at right guard clearly made a difference. There was a lot of emotion Sunday with Adrian Peterson and the crowd and that adrenaline helps. But if this group can stay healthy and together – that was the fifth different offensive line in six games – the Cards should be OK.

— Fitzgerald said it was kicker Phil Dawson who told him to waste some time on the onside kick recovery at the end, to make sure the clock ticked under the two-minute mark (and stoppage at the two-minute warning) so the Cards could kneel three times and be done. “That was Phil all the way,” Fitz said.

— Ryan Fitzpatrick likes putting a scare into Bruce Arians. First it was 2013 in Tennessee, then Sunday.

— Arians took the blame for Palmer’s interception, saying he insisted on throwing it deep there to go for the throat. But Arians said he needs to stay greedy. “There’s no lead big enough in the National Football League,” Arians said.

— Palmer is expecting both David Johnson and T.J. Logan to come off injured reserve, apparently, since he mentioned both running backs playing with Peterson later this season.

“I can’t help but think what B.A. will come up with when we get T.J. Logan back and Dave back,” Palmer said. “I can’t wait to see that.”

— That would be interesting. Just like the Cards were Sunday. Tomorrow, a flight to London.


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Keim: Cardinals need chip back on shoulder

Posted by Darren Urban on October 9, 2017 – 8:26 am

Steve Keim, not surprisingly, is frustrated. After Sunday’s bad game in Philly, Keim acknowledged while talking to the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 that “I don’t think we’ve played this bad in all three phases since the NFC Championship two years ago.”

Keim noted all the things that became painfully obvious. The defense could make third-down stops, with Keim blaming poor tackling and simple techniques in coverage. On offense, the lack of any kind of a run game makes it so easy for the opponent’s defense to tee off on Carson Palmer sitting in the pocket. And then “special teams didn’t help.”

It was interesting to hear Keim talk about the game reminding him how the Cards got their rears kicked around in Philly on Thankgiving night in 2008. That team, which also were whipped terribly in New York and New England that year, rallied, if you recall. “Am I suggesting we are going to the Super Bowl? No,” Keim said. “But there is something to be said about momentum and the team jelling together, and that’s the approach we have to take.”

First the Cardinals would have to find some momentum. There is none right now.

“Sometimes, when you get taken to the woodshed like this, if you’re going to use it for any positive, it’s to put that chip back on your shoulder,” Keim said.

— On the status of the offensive line, Keim said guard Alex Boone (chest) and tackle D.J. Humphries (knee) remain week-to-week and the Cards don’t want to put them in harm’s way by rushing them back.

“There is hope, once we get D.J. back and once we get Boone back, there’s no doubt in my mind it will improve,” Keim said. “That being said, there are some current players who will continue to play on this line who have to improve.”

— Keim, on Patrick Peterson’s sideline outburst. “There’s a part of me inside who loves it,” Keim said. “I like to see guys who don’t like to lose.

“It sincerely comes from Pat’s heart. I appreciate his competitiveness.”

— Keim was asked about special teams coach Amos Jones, and what goes on behind the scenes that make the Cardinals know Jones is the right coach.

“I think there are always things that people don’t see,” Keim said. “… More than anything, me or coach (Bruce Arians) or Michael (Bidwill) knowing that, the type of things that need to be taught are being taught. It’s whether the players are correcting those issues or not. We tried to really improve football I.Q. with our players, because that’s one of the issues we’ve had in the past. Once I think we get some of that stuff cleaned up and guys can play a little bit smarter, I think you’ll start to see some improvement.

“Again, week after week, the same mistakes keep happening. Quite frankly, if anything, we need to continue to rotate players in and out of here and find players who can help us. If a guy continually makes the same mistakes and isn’t going to fix it, we’ll go ahead and make a decision and look at ready list and bring in some guys and make some changes.”

— The Cardinals will bring in five long snappers for workouts today to find a replacement for the injured Aaron Brewer, who broke his hand/wrist Sunday.

— Keim reiterated that Palmer did not play well the first two games but the last three he has played “very good” given the circumstances, especially with the offensive line.

— Keim admitted he doesn’t have a lot of patience, but he doesn’t want this emotions to get the best of him. And he understands his players’ frustrations. “I think it’s a good thing from the standpoint of, if we had a bunch of guys downstairs just collecting their checks and they didn’t care, I’d be certainly concerned,” Keim said. “But there are lot of guys who are genuinely upset.”

 


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Watford returns to get start in Philly

Posted by Darren Urban on October 8, 2017 – 8:29 am

With no Alex Boone today (he’s unable to play because of his pectoral injury) the Cardinals will turn to Earl Watford to start at left guard, after Watford made his homecoming this week — both to the Cardinals, after leaving as a free agent, and here to Philadelphia, where he grew up. It’s yet another incarnation of the Cards’ in-flux offensive line, which will feature its third different starting lineup in five games.

The Cardinals will have their other two questionable players active: Wide receivers John Brown and J.J. Nelson. Cornerback Tramon Williams, who was inactive last week, is back to active status with new addition Scooby Wright not dressing.

— QB Blaine Gabbert

— WR Chad Williams

— RB D.J. Foster

— LB Scooby Wright

— T D.J. Humphries (knee)

— G Alex Boone (chest)

— DL Robert Nkemdiche (calf)


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Keim: Managing the injuries

Posted by Darren Urban on October 2, 2017 – 8:15 am

Sunday’s game wasn’t the textbook win, but Steve Keim doesn’t much care about that. “Anytime you can win a game ,it’s a positive,” the GM said Monday during the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “I would’ve preferred to win 38-10, but I think winning a game like this early in the season can do some things for your team internally to build confidence.”

The Cardinals are now 2-2, but Keim, once again could have a significant injury with which he has to deal. This time it’s linebacker Markus Golden, who is getting an MRI after hurting his knee. “I’m always fearful anytime a player can’t return to the game,” Keim said. “If I was going to bet on anyone, I would bet on Markus for two reasons. One he walked off the field and I’ve had two ACL (injuries) and I know what it’s like. And there’s no tougher player on our team in terms of playing through pain.”

UPDATE: Ian Rapaport is reporting that Golden is out for the season after tearing his ACL.

Still, Keim said it’s his job to have a “plan in place” if there is a player lost. Losing Golden would be a blow. Keim said it would be “hard to say” if left tackle D.J. Humphries (knee) will be back this week. Guard Alex Boone (pectoral) might be ahead of schedule, Keim said, but he too is iffy.

— The Eagles are another team with a good pass rush and the fractured nature of the offensive line gives pause. The Cardinals managed to protect Carson Palmer pretty well in overtime Sunday as opposed to a rough afternoon the rest of the game. But Palmer was hit 16 times, which is way too many, and they have to find a way to drop that number.

— Keim wasn’t saying wide receiver John Brown, who is still dealing with the quad issue, is 100 percent healthy. But he “just brings another element to the offense that we’ve missed.” The question is how well Smoke bounces back. Brown played in the opener and found that his quad got worse. The Cardinals have to hope Brown can start playing every week.

— There was praise for Palmer — “Two weeks in a row Carson has played very, very well,” Keim said, but again, there is the obvious: Without better protection, Palmer’s success is somewhat limited.

— There were too many holding penalties on the offense, while the defense did some bend-but-not-break work to keep the Cards in it (and the way the Cards’ D performed in the fourth quarter was excellent, to force overtime.)

— Keim said running back Andre Ellington is playing with a lot of confidence, which isn’t  surprise given that Ellington is now healthy. “He is a natural fit in this offense, especially in the passing game,” Keim said.

— As for 11? “To finish is with a kiss by Larry Fitzgerald was special,” Keim said.


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Humphries will not play against 49ers

Posted by Darren Urban on October 1, 2017 – 11:31 am

D,J, Humphries is not playing yet, and that will leave the Cardinals with a seriously depleted offensive line this week. With Mike Iupati going on injured reserve and Alex Boone unable to play after hurting his pectoral muscle, the Cards will keep John Wetzel at left tackle and use rookie Will Holden at left guard today against the 49ers. (It’s been a big week for Holden, who proposed to his girlfriend on the field after Monday night’s game.)

As previously noted by coach Bruce Arians, receivers Smokey Brown (quad) is active for the first time since the opener, and J.J. Nelson (hamstring) will also play. How much each is able to play will be something to monitor.

Veteran cornerback Tramon Williams, who has played little the first three games, is also inactive for the first time.

— QB Blaine Gabbert

— RB D.J. Foster

— WR Chad Williams

— CB Tramon Williams

— T D.J. Humphries (knee)

— G Alex Boone (chest)

— DL Robert Nkemdiche (calf)

 


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The original offensive line?

Posted by Darren Urban on September 27, 2017 – 5:07 pm

D.J. Humphries was upbeat. “Can’t wait to get out there,” the tackle said Wednesday, although technically he had just been out there for practice. The Cardinals didn’t go hard just two days after a game — Bruce Arians called it a walkthrough, although the guys had helmets, unlike what I would consider a normal walkthrough — and Humphries needs to be in the mix in a harsher environment. So too does guard Mike Iupati (although Iupati has been practicing limited the last couple of weeks even though he hasn’t been playing.)

If Humphries and Iupati can play, however, does that get the Cardinals their original, anticipated offensive line on the field. From left to right, it was supposed to be Humphries, Iupati, Shipley, Boehm, Veldheer. That’s what it was in the opener for a little bit, until Humphries had his leg rolled up on and suffered his knee sprain. Iupati was never 100 percent, with the triceps injury lingering since training camp. (Alex Boone, who hurt his pectoral muscle, is a guy Arians said will be reevaluated Thursday, and frankly, if there is a guy who would try and play through something, Boone is that guy — especially against the 49ers, his former team.)

The problems with the offensive line aren’t a secret or even very hard to see. The right side, with Boehm and Veldheer, is struggling, and that has nothing to do with injuries. I’ll admit, I am surprised at the Veldheer issues. Out of whatever concerns you might have had about the line as constructed, Veldheer would’ve been last on the list, regardless of a move to the right side. If he and Boehm don’t significantly up their level of play, the rest of the line won’t matter. But it would be something to see the Cardinals’ original lineup on the field for a whole game and see what it might mean.


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Keim: Veldheer “has to get better”

Posted by Darren Urban on September 26, 2017 – 8:13 am

As a former offensive lineman, it frustrates General Manager Steve Keim to no end when the offensive line struggles. You could hear that Tuesday during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. Keim at one point was asked specifically about the struggles of right tackle Jared Veldheer, and Veldheer’s move there.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with right tackle,” Keim said. “The fact of the matter is he has to get better. He’s got to improve all the little things … his footwork, his technique, his hand placement and get back to basics. Again, 64,000 people saw it last night. Jared is a prideful guy, and I expect nothing less than for him to be in here this week and make some improvements.”

Keim called the O-line play “unacceptable.” He said reinforcements should be coming, with left tackle D.J. Humphries having a good chance to return after his knee injury and the possibility guard Mike Iupati (triceps) could return as well. The latter may be important, since guard Alex Boone strained a pectoral muscle late in the game and will have to undergo an MRI today. Keim sounded optimistic Boone’s injury wouldn’t be serious, but we will see on that.

— Keim lauded both Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer. Palmer got much of the praise, given the circumstances in which he played behind the struggling offensive line.

“Ball placement, accuracy, decision-making, I just think in every way I thought (Palmer) played exceptional,” Keim said. “Under the circumstances, down a couple of playmakers injury-wise, not having David Johnson, not having John Brown, J.J. (Nelson) had some hamstring issues, and to do what he did under pressure and to create with his feet and his arm at the same time … some of the balls he fit into tight windows, he gave our receivers a chance, again I thought it was exceptional. There is no doubt in my mind he played as well as he could possibly play, under the circumstances.”

— The poor offensive line play didn’t help the special teams/field position, Keim said, with the punts out of the Cards’ own end zone. As for Phil Dawson’s missed field goal, “when you don’t produce there is always concern,” Keim said. “The thing that gives me confidence is Phil’s body of work. At the same time, it doesn’t minimize fact we need to be concerned with those types of kicks.”

— Keim said the defense played “lights out” for the most part. He was disappointed with the two chunk plays when Dak Prescott escaped the pocket, and also because defensive backs Justin Bethel and Tyrann Matheiu “did not turn and find the football.”


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Seeking protection, and Cowboys aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 25, 2017 – 11:28 pm

The lights came on, the tension seemed to be lifted once the Cardinals chose to lock arms and not kneel for the national anthem, and then Carson Palmer started dealing like it was 2015 again. The Cardinals made the Cowboys look pretty beatable in those first 15 minutes, and the Cards looked like a new team. But there was a missed field goal in there too, which wasn’t ideal, and like the Detroit game, it was a situation where the Cards should have been ahead by a lot more but weren’t.

When it was over, Dak Prescott showed why he’s already on the verge of quarterback stardom – as good as Ezekiel Elliott is, to me, there is no question who the guy is that will make the Cowboys a contender, and it’s all about the quarterback – and the Cards were left trying to figure out how to keep their own QB upright. According to Pro Football Focus, both tackles, Jared Veldheer and John Wetzel, gave up one sack and eight pressures.

Palmer said he held on to the ball too long a couple of times, and that is true. But the pocket is collapsing much too fast too often. “Block better,” was Bruce Arians’ response on improving the protection. And hey, Dan Dierdorf is not walking through that door.

“We only have seven guys out there, so they’re the only ones that can play,” Arians said.

D.J. Humphries is walking around a lot better so hopefully he has a chance to return this week against the 49ers. But Alex Boone got hurt late in the game, Palmer said (no word on what it is or severity), so the injury thing is still a thing.

— Chris Johnson did indeed get the start at running back. He could not find any room nor create anything, gaining just 17 yards on 12 carries. We will see what happens but Andre Ellington looked like the best back out there, and who knows? Maybe there will be a fourth different starter in four games next week. (My early guess is still CJ2K for another week, but we’ll see.) Still, Arians was asked if Ellington would get more touches next week.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt,” Arians said, after Ellington got 59 yards on five catches and 22 yards rushing (leading the team) on five carries.

— There was time to recover but the 15-play drive that ended with no points was a gut punch. You think you get a second Palmer-to-Jaron Brown TD pass but a Veldheer holding call wipes it out. (To be fair, I don’t know if Palmer is able to get outside the pocket to make the play without the hold, so it is what it is.) Then Phil Dawson misses another field goal inside 40 yards. A 14-0 lead would’ve been huge. Making sure Dawson gets right, quickly, is probably even more important.

— Patrick Peterson was targeted just once all night, according to Pro Football Focus, and none when he was guarding Dez Bryant. Peterson gave up a two-yard catch to Elliott.

— I was surprised Arians went for it on fourth down at the end of the game down 11 points. A field goal makes it eight points and you’ll have to get an onside kick regardless. That said, with the Cardinals at the Dallas 2 and their pass protection doing poorly, I can see the argument that you go for the TD being so close.

— You could tell J.J. Nelson wasn’t himself with the sore hamstring. He got a couple of late “go” routes and nearly had an incredible sideline catch. But when he couldn’t go deep, it hurts. Between the injured speed receivers and the pass protection problems, the Cards aren’t going to scare many teams down the field – even with Fitz making crazy jump-ball grabs.


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