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Keim on David Johnson: “You wonder if he’s real”

Posted by Darren Urban on October 18, 2016 – 8:15 am

Everyone knows the story now, that the Cardinals sought Ameer Abdullah in the 2015 draft and only took David Johnson a round later because the Lions jumped up and drafted Abdullah ahead of the Cards. Yes, you have to be lucky and good sometimes. But after Johnson ran through the previously No. 2-ranked rush defense in the Jets Monday, General Manager Steve Keim said Tuesday during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 that Johnson has been so impressive both on and off the field, “you wonder if he’s real.”

It was a pure compliment. When you talk to Johnson, Keim said, he’s smart and articulate and humble. A “true professional,” Keim said. And on the field of course, he’s been excellent. “B.A. gives him a hard time” Keim acknowledged, and Bruce Arians is willing to quickly mention what Johnson needs to do to improve despite his gaudy stats. “But the things he does for this offense puts a defense in a bind.”

Keim said he’s always seen Johnson’s skillset to create mismatches in the passing game. But Johnson’s evolution into a “pure runner,” Keim said, is noteworthy.

“He has really improved, particularly his patience and vision,” Keim said.

More Keim thoughts after the Cardinals got back to .500 Monday night:

— Keim said he liked the resiliency of the Cards fighting back to .500, although there is still a long season left. The Seahawks game is big, but (not unexpectedly) Keim said it was important because it’s the next game.

— Lots of praise for the defense. He said the Jets game was the first time he had seen the unit play fast and loose with minimal mental errors. It’s a tough unit when it plays like that, Keim said. When it was suggested that the defense is morphing from a blitz-first group to one who might do a little of everything (the Cardinals certainly finally have a group that can get to the quarterback with just four, especially when the four are Jones, Golden, Campbell and Okafor), Keim said “more than anything, I just think they are starting to jell.

— Keim praised the play of Chandler Jones. “He impacted almost every play.” He also specifically named Markus Golden, fellow linebackers Deone Bucannon and Kevin Minter, and the play of two of the newer defensive backs, Tharold Simon and Marcus Cooper.

— Tyrann Mathieu continues to take steps forward. Keim said he doesn’t think the safety is 100 percent back yet, not from a movement standpoint. But “you definitely see signs of improvement.”

— It would be “huge” if the Cardinals can get Michael Floyd going in the second half of the season. But Keim said the Cardinals still want to do the same with the Browns — Smoke and Jaron — and even J.J. Nelson, who contributed quite a bit Monday night.

— Speaking of Jaron Brown, Keim did not have any injury updates.

— The offensive line and new guards Earl Watford and John Wetzel “did an excellent job” considering the opponent. The Jets had only given up one rushing touchdown coming into the game, Keim noted, and the Cardinals scored three. “Those guys stepped up for the circumstance they were put in,” Keim said.


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Keim: Palmer still in protocol, Iupati TBA

Posted by Darren Urban on October 10, 2016 – 8:10 am

Injuries are starting to play a big role in what is happening with the Cardinals this season, and even though we are four days past the Cardinals’ last game, General Manager Steve Keim still didn’t gave anything concrete to say about guard Mike Iupati, who hurt his ankle against the 49ers. Keim, during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, said the Cardinals would find out more either later Monday or Tuesday if Iupati would miss any time, although it would not be a surprise if Iupati did miss at least the game against the Jets a week from today. The Cardinals, of course, will definitely be without their other starting guard, Evan Mathis, who went on injured reserve over the weekend. (Keim said there was still a chance Mathis could be the one player to come back off IR this season.)

As for quarterback Carson Palmer, Keim said he remains in the concussion protocol, but Keim said in his communication with Palmer he was encouraged and Palmer is “doing great by all indications.”

The Cardinals don’t return to the practice field until Wednesday, and have an extra day to prepare because of “Monday Night Football.”

— Keim said the win over the 49ers “certainly instilled some confidence” although there remain concerns, like yet another slow start on offense.

— Losing Mathis cost the Cards a core player and strong leader, Keim acknowledged, but the Cardinals have some options. Earl Watford is expected to start in Mathis’ absence, and if Iupati is down, John Wetzel will likely get the call. Keim praised John Wetzel for filling in for Iupati in San Francisco.

— Overall, the offensive line played well, Keim said. Right tackle D.J. Humphries still has work to do in the passing game, but the GM really likes how Humphries is playing in the running game.

— Keim felt backup QB Drew Stanton “played solid.” He was hampered by a few dropped passes. As the backup, there is “no doubt we have a lot of confidence in him.”

— Keim echoed Bruce Arians about Michael Floyd’s issues, calling it strictly inconsistency and a loss of confidence. “We know what kind of player Michael can be,” Keim said. “When he gets hot, he can be a difference-maker for us.”

— Five games into the season, Keim remains optimistic. “I’m still confident it’s going to be a special year.”

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Keim: “It’s OK to take this thing personal”

Posted by Darren Urban on October 3, 2016 – 8:28 am

Steve Keim is, admittedly, not happy.

“We have a chance to create sustainable success and I hold myself as accountable as anybody,” the Cardinals General Manager said Monday during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “It’s OK to take this thing personal.”

“This” is the Cardinals’ 1-3 start, after Sunday’s loss to the Rams. Keim, like everyone in the building, is trying to figure out how the Cardinals can fix their issues, knowing they play again Thursday in San Francisco and starting quarterback Carson Palmer is unlikely to play after suffering a concussion. The Cardinals had been winning these close games, especially at home, during the Bruce Arians era.

“Those were different teams and this is a different time,” Keim said. “We will find out what we are made of quickly.”

Keim did say — and acknowledged it sounded weird — that he saw a lot of good things against the Rams. There was a good run defense, the Cardinals were the more efficient team in total yards. But the same issues continue to plague the team. Miscommunication in the secondary. Turning the ball over. Missed tackles. Finishing drives. Those things aren’t new, “which is difficult to deal with,” he said.

“There were signs that let me know we have, one, a talented football team, and number two, we have time on our hands,” Keim added. “At the same time, we can’t mess around. We are in a position, as we all know, that it better start changing quickly.”

— Keim called it “embarrassing” the Cardinals had already lost two home games. The Cards went 6-2 at home last season.

— Asked directly if the Cardinals were missing the leadership of former safety Rashad Johnson on the secondary, Keim said no. “I think we have enough leaders back there and have guys that can get people lined up,” Keim said. “It’s a matter of execution.”

— The pass rush was decent, Keim said, but he said he was bothered that when guys did get pressure they didn’t keep their eyes up, allowing Rams QB Case Keenum to move in the pocket or scramble for yards.

— Keim said his interpretation of panicking is doing things out of the ordinary, and he doesn’t see the need to do that at this point. “I think we have good football players that need to play better,” he said, “and guys that need to get their heads straight in terms of preparation off the field. The mental side of it.”

— There was no update on the condition on Palmer. My guess is that there won’t be today, other than he’s going through the concussion protocol. Again, Arians said Palmer was likely to miss Thursday’s game.

— Most of what Keim talked about was overall with the team. Few names were mentioned. He said he thought Deone Bucannon played well, but fellow linebacker Kevin Minter made some mistakes. He said he thought overall, the offensive line held up. The Rams definitely beat them a few times, but with talents like Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn, that was going to happen.

— Keim said rookie defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche was still not 100 percent on his bad ankle, one of the reasons he remained inactive. But Keim also said Nkemdiche needs to “continue to grow” off the field, including studying the playbook.

— Keim said he thinks Arians will be meeting with the captains and leaders, and he would guess there will be meetings among the players themselves. “There was definitely anger in the locker room after the game,” Keim said. “In a good way.”

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Keim: Nine tryout players after loss

Posted by Darren Urban on September 26, 2016 – 8:14 am

The Cardinals are 1-2. They played one of their worst games of the Bruce Arians era Sunday in Buffalo — GM Steve Keim noted it might have been topped only by the NFC Championship game — and not surprisingly, changes could be made.

Keim, during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 Monday, said the Cardinals will bring in nine players for tryouts Tuesday. If any of them can help, Keim said, “we will churn this roster.” (He didn’t say who or what positions were coming in.)

It’s not about sending a message. “I don’t make moves just to send a message,” Keim said. “but there is no doubt if you show a tendency to pull the trigger, they understand downstairs (in the locker room) if you don’t consistently produce, there will be changes made.”

One of those players could be long snapper Kam Canaday. Keim was asked if the big hit Canaday took on the first punt of the day — the one on which Drew Butler re-sprained his ankle — could have impacted his bad snap later. Keim noted Canaday’s other snaps seemed fine. “It’s not about excuses,” Keim said. “Bottom line, he’s got to get it done. He hasn’t on at least two instances.”

— Keim talked much about his disappointment, and reiterated his feelings after the first game (which, as a quick aside, too many fans thought he was jabbing fans, when he was talking about the everyone’s feelings, including his own.) “When you lose it feels like the sky is falling, when you win everything is great,” Keim said, noting that not only were there problems in all three phases of the game, but the team’s best players, the Pro Bowl players, did not play well.

Still, “I feel confident coach will have these guys ready to go Sunday,” Keim added.

— Admittedly frustrated, figuring out answers “is what I get paid to do,” Keim said. “The difficult balance is making smart decisions and making decisions based on emotions.”

“You have to do what is best for the organization and you have to keep that in mind,” he added.

— The talent is there, Keim said. Playing consistently is another matter, and the number of “mental busts” on both sides of the ball after three weeks is distressing. He wants the Cardinals to be more physical up front. He didn’t like the confusion on the offensive line dealing with stunts by the Bills defensive lines, and he noted how many bad routes and bad throws messed up the passing game. (Another aside: It does seem like Carson Palmer and his pass catchers have nowhere near the chemistry they featured in 2015.)

— There were many things to want to see get better, but the slow start bothered Keim the most. The Cardinals got a nice defensive stop and great field position to start the game. But Michael Floyd dropped what would have been a nine- or 10-yard pass on the first play, leading to a three-and-out when that one catch would have likely set up a field goal at least.

— “It’s disappointing to be 1-2 when you have expectations,” Keim said.

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Keim: Cooper took advantage of opportunity

Posted by Darren Urban on September 19, 2016 – 8:13 am

Last week, Steve Keim talked about the sky falling after the loss to the Patriots. This week, the Cardinals’ General Manager played off the theme, noting that despite getting into the office before the sun was up Monday, “there didn’t appear to be a cloud in the sky.”

Such is the reaction after a 40-7 win Sunday. The vibe tends to be better. Mostly, Keim — during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 — saw positives, including the play of cornerback Marcus Cooper. It doesn’t hurt that Cooper was acquired for a seventh-round draft pick in 2018, a cheap price even if the Bucs’ performance ends up being Cooper’s best. Keim said Cooper was high on the Cards’ potential trade list in the preseason. (That includes not only scouting players, but also guesstimating what players teams might be willing to give up or cut at some point.)

Cooper has the length the Cards like and a “feel for the game,” Keim said.

“He’s just a savvy guy,” Keim said. “I don’t want to anoint him as the next coming of Deion Sanders quite yet, but at the same time, very excited with the way he played.”

— Keim said he was “still extremely high” on rookie cornerback Brandon Williams. He thought Williams played well Sunday in limited defensive snaps. “I have no concerns that Brandon won’t develop, but still, it’s nice to see competition at the position.”

— The only reason rookie DT Robert Nkemdiche was inactive Sunday was because of the ankle tweak he suffered late last week in practice, Keim said. He added Nkemdiche should be back this week.

— Right tackle D.J. Humphries played well, Keim said, and added that right guard Evan Mathis was the “epitome of a pro” for coming back from his foot/ankle injury.

— Keim liked the game nose tackle Xavier Williams played, as well as fellow nose tackle Corey Peters. Keim said moneybacker Deone Bucannon had an excellent game.

— Early in the game, Keim admitted he wanted the pass rush to get home more often, but felt that the pressure eventually started getting to Bucs QB Jameis Winston even without sacks, given how many passes of Winston came out high. “I thought Chandler (Jones) did a nice job being disruptive, even though it didn’t show up in the sack column until later in the game,” Keim said. “I think they got into Jameis’ head enough.”

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Friday before the Buccaneers

Posted by Darren Urban on September 16, 2016 – 4:06 pm

Practice over for the week and the players going off to leave for the day, Bruce Arians said during his Friday media meeting he hoped the Cardinals would do a better job of mental preparation between then and kickoff Sunday against the Buccaneers. Asked what he could do in that regard, Arians didn’t hesitate.

“That’s their job, not mine,” he said. “I’ve already prepared them. That’s their homework.”

A little while later, linebacker Kevin Minter chuckled when that message was relayed. “He told you exactly what he told us,” Minter said. “Almost verbatim.”

“He has a point though,” Minter said. The linebacker said the practices last week — like this week — were excellent. Something got lost before kickoff in Week 1. Maybe it had to do with the emotions of the moment, with a Sunday night game, and the Patriots, and 9/11, and the season starting. “Not making excuses, but we had to calm it back down,” Minter said.

Did they?

“You get hit in the mouth like that, you better calm down,” Minter said.

Guess we’ll find out Sunday.

— So much is on the defense this week. They know they didn’t play as the should’ve last week (I’ve got the “10-for-16” burned in my brain at this point.) They face a much more dangerous passing offense in terms of explosion. They still have to find a way to go with work-in-progress Brandon Williams at cornerback. Can’t let Doug Martin get outside, but I think the Cards can handle the run game. Can they slow down Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson down the field? A couple of those TDs last week in Atlanta weren’t about bad coverage — it was Jameis Winston throwing to a tall receiver and that receiver making an incredible catch.

— The GMs in this game, Steve Keim and Jason Licht, are close friends. Wonder if there has been any trash-talking this week.

— It’ll probably be a week or two before new cornerback Tharold Simon is active for a game, but Arians said Marcus Cooper, the corner acquired in a trade a couple weeks ago, will “get action” this week. I assume that means on defense. Cooper played five special teams snaps against New England.

— The last time the Cardinals played the Bucs, it was in Tampa in 2013, the back end of a week away from Arizona. The Cardinals pulled out a late win against an inferior team because Patrick Peterson made two interceptions in the last four minutes of the game. (Why rookie QB Mike Glennon, in his first start, was throwing at that point no one knows.)

Peterson said he had forgotten about the circumstances until assistant athletic trainer Chad Cook brought it up. “Didn’t know that was in the last four minutes of the game,” Peterson said. “So that was pretty clutch.”

— Larry Fitzgerald now has 100 career touchdowns after his last one against the Pats. Fitz was asked where that TD ranks for him.

“Ranks 97 behind Jerry Rice,” Fitzgerald said. “So that puts it in perspective for me to keep working.”

As good as Fitz is, I don’t think he’s catching Rice.

— I think John Brown will be better this week than last. Not sure if he just needed a game to get the rust off, but I think you’ll see some Smoke this time. And I think the Cardinals need him.

— Peterson said the Cardinals will “definitely” bounce back after last week. “I’m not guaranteeing a win, but there is a different energy,” Peterson said. “I can feel the sense of urgency. … Good teams don’t lose twice (in a row).”

Bring on the Bucs.


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Keim: Dealing with “sky-is-falling” Monday

Posted by Darren Urban on September 12, 2016 – 8:19 am

Steve Keim was blunt.

“It’s ‘The-sky-is-falling’ Monday and we have to use that as a chip on our shoulder to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” the Cardinals General Manager said during his appearance on “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7.

The sentiment summed up Sunday night’s loss to New England. Keim didn’t see a whole lot that everyone else didn’t, but had the reaction that many fans are feeling. Asked if there was such a thing as a good loss, Keim didn’t hesitate. “Not when you are playing a backup quarterback missing some playmakers, and it’s a home game.” It was not the way the Cardinals or Keim planned on starting the season, and you could hear it in his voice.

“You wake up Monday morning angry, disappointed, embarrassed and that’s the way we all should feel,” Keim said.

— On special teams, Keim said they were “very disappointing, in every area.” It was a rough night. In addition to the missed field goal, the Cards could not make the kickoff returns work and Drew Butler didn’t punt well.

— Keim said the defensive play, especially on third downs, was “very frustrating.” He wasn’t particularly surprised it was hard to pressure Jimmy Garoppolo because of three-step drops, but “the cushion that we played with, the isolations that they got with some of their inside slot receivers on safeties and the lack of leverage, the inability to tackle in space, those were all extremely disappointing.”

— Two of the three sacks Carson Palmer absorbed were coverage sacks, Keim said, and overall, Keim thought the offensive line play was OK. Too many times Palmer and his receivers weren’t on the same page, and in the first half specifically the offense wasn’t in sync.

— “More than anything, we did not tackle well” on defense, Keim said.

— Safety Tyrann Mathieu needs to knock the rust off. Keim said he doesn’t think Mathieu’s knee is an issue. As for cornerback Brandon Williams, “there were some mistakes he made that were very, very critical to the game.” Keim likened Williams’ play to an offensive lineman who holds up the vast majority of plays but gives up a couple of key sacks.

— So the Cardinals, for so many a favorite to make the Super Bowl, are 0-1. “The thing is, I don’t place hype on our team,” Keim said. “My job is to try and produce the best roster that I can and I know we have a talented bunch. At the same time, if they don’t play to their level, we’re going to have disappointment. That’s what happened (Sunday). We have to regroup.”

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Keim: Looking at QBs Murray, Dysert

Posted by Darren Urban on September 6, 2016 – 8:01 am

The Cardinals are still looking for a young quarterback. So it made sense, said GM Steve Keim Tuesday, that the Cardinals pick up a couple of quarterbacks for the practice squad. The signings of Aaron Murray and Zac Dysert were officially announced Tuesday morning and Keim talked about bringing both in while on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. He said Murray and Dysert were the two highest-rated quarterbacks out there that were practice-squad eligible. It’ll be about taking a look at both over the next few weeks and see what they have.

“You can never tell, particularly at that position, until you spend time with them,” Keim said.

Keim added that the practice squad, like the bottom of the 53-man roster, will continue to be churned in an effort to find players who can help.

— As for Matt Barkley, Keim said “I’m not going to say the opportunity wasn’t there” for Barkley to return to the Cardinals practice squad. Barkley instead signed to be on the Bears’ practice squad. “He probably saw the opportunity in Chicago as a better fit, and we wish him well,” Keim said.

— Why keep nine defensive lineman? If there isn’t a great trade opportunity, Keim said, you don’t want to give away good players even if there are many at one position. Plus, he added, defensive line is one of those spots where injuries do crop up. Last but not least, Keim mentioned having young players under contract for the future (and it should be kept in mind that both Calais Campbell and Frostee Rucker are unrestricted free agents after the season., so if they left, the Cards still have a nice group of D-linemen.)

— Keim said there were talks about trading a defensive lineman but the offers the Cards got were not in the Cards’ “best interest.”

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Keim going through the cuts process

Posted by Darren Urban on August 29, 2016 – 8:21 am

It’s a fluid day today thanks to the first round of cuts and a short week, meaning the Cardinals go from a 90-man team playing in Houston Sunday to a 75-man team practicing (or walking through at least) Monday afternoon. The Cardinals will make their cuts likely before practice, and GM Steve Keim said on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 that the process is going on right now. That includes meeting with the medical staff at some point to find out where the Cards stand there — if cornerback Mike Jenkins’ knee injury is a season-ender, for instance, he’d probably go on IR and there’s one roster spot — and then make the other cuts from there.

All that news is to come on azcardinals.com. Bruce Arians will speak at 12:15 p.m., although in the past cuts have come out after he speaks.

Other Keim thoughts after the Texans game:

— Keim’s “one concern” is the fact the Cardinals have not played well collectively, particularly on offense. That will hopefully be rectified when players like Larry Fitzgerald return to the lineup and they all start playing a lot more together. Keim did single out a handful of offensive players he has liked so far. Running back Andre Ellington has impressed, and Keim said he likes the progress of rookie offensive linemen Evan Boehm and Cole Toner.

— Keim also said he thought the pass protection was good overall and that right tackle D.J. Humphries played his best game, which could be seen in the excellent run performance the Cards had. Humphries “brings physicality to the line.”

— The quarterbacks overall haven’t played well. “I don’t think that’s hard to see,” Keim acknowledged.

— Rookie DT Robert Nkemdiche didn’t get a lot of pressures on passing downs but Keim liked how disruptive he was in the run game as a good first step.

— CB Justin Bethel was rusty, Keim agreed after Arians’ assessment. Keim thought rookie CB Brandon Williams had a “solid” game, getting better mentally and with his eyes, despite getting beat a couple of times.

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Keim: “Good chance” Nkemdiche plays Sunday

Posted by Darren Urban on August 22, 2016 – 8:16 am

The Cardinals had a bunch of players come back to practice this week, and — barring anything between then and Sunday’s third preseason game in Houston — General Manager Steve Keim said the team will be in pretty good health against the Texans.

During his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, Keim said that, after talking to head athletic trainer Tom Reed, the Cardinals may only have “one or two” players too injured to be available for the next game. Keim also said that rookie defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, who has been out since suffering a high-ankle sprain during quarterback school work and hasn’t practice in camp, has a “good chance” to play against the Texans. Coach Bruce Arians said that Nkemdiche should be back at practice Wednesday.

Other news and thoughts from the Keim conversation:

Like Arians, Keim isn’t worried about the Cardinals or their preseason performances in terms of how they will do in the regular season. But “we need to pick up our level of urgency.” Keim said. “You can’t go out when the season starts and turn the switch on. … You can’t sleepwalk through the preseason. (Friday) was a great lesson for our players.”

— Keim told MMQB.com’s Peter King that it was a “chicken(expletive) call by me” not to take a chance on quarterback Russell Wilson in the 2012 draft, and that he “didn’t have the balls to take Russell Wilson.” Keim is constantly preaching the need to self-evaluate, and that certainly qualifies.

“He is a great learning lesson for all of us,” Keim told Arizona Sports.

— Aside from allowing a pressure on the first snap, Keim said he thought right tackle D.J. Humphries was better than his first game. Keim also liked how guard Evan Mathis played, and he likes the progress — although it’s slower — of rookie OLs Cole Toner and Evan Boehm.

— On the idea Arians would like the Cardinals to practice against another team a couple of times in next year’s training camp: “I love it,” Keim said. The Cardinals might try to visit one team for a week and host a team another week. A handful of NFL teams did that this year. Keim (and Arians) love the idea of going up against another team as a measuring stick and to break up the monotony of camp.

— Keim said potential trade talks, with the Chargers or any other team, are ongoing and usually don’t heat up until the end of the preseason.

— There is still a learning curve for rookie cornerback Brandon Williams, Keim said, but “quite frankly, I thought (his struggles) would be a little worse.” Keim is pleased with Williams’ progress thus far.

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