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Keim: The unseen factors in the cut to 53

Posted by Darren Urban on September 5, 2017 – 8:16 am

Even Steve Keim is feeling the local pride, mentioning the 11-game winning streak of baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks and the four home runs hit Labor Day night by J.D. Martinez while doing his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show Tuesday morning on Arizona Sports 98.7.

But there was Cardinals stuff for the GM to talk about too. Keim was asked about three of the most talked-about cuts: RB Chris Johnson, OL Cole Toner and OLB Cap Capi. Not surprisingly, Keim didn’t want to get into specifics. But the bottom line? No one outside can know everything with how the decisions are made.

“When you are building a roster there are so many things behind the scenes that go into it,” Keim said. “It could be your role on game day, there are so many factors many people don’t see. There is the mental side of the game, the ability to pick up assignments, how many mental errors to you have, can you line up in the right gap, you work ethic, the intangibles, the things you bring to the table in the locker room.

“There are so many factors that go into it that the fans and the media may not see, and we are privy to that information that’s so important in building the final 53.”

— Keim said his toughest work of the weekend wasn’t any particular cut, but putting together the 10-man practice squad. The 53-man roster “fell into place,” while the practice squad is more difficult, wanting to make sure it’s stocked with players that can develop into 53-man roster players, or guys who might be able to be plug and play if there is an injury.

New punter Andy Lee was “a guy we had an eye on all along,” Keim said. Coming off the 2016 season, it was no secret the Cards had to upgrade the special teams work, Keim added. Having him available now “was a great gift for us.” The relationship with K Phil Dawson (and even his friendship with college teammate Larry Fitzgerald) is just a bonus.

— Keim said backup center Daniel Munyer “might be the most pleasant surprise” of training camp. Munyer was under-the-radar as potential 53-man pick, but he might be someone who can continue to develop into starter material. As for his roster spot now, “he’s earned it,” Keim said.

— Reiterating what Bruce Arians has said, there is (surprising?) confidence in the cornerback room beyond Patrick Peterson. Justin Bethel seems to have shown big improvement in his bugaboo of awareness and finding the ball in the air — “He’s taken ownership of that,” Keim said — and both Tramon Williams and Brandon Williams showed in camp they are capable.

— Keim’s biggest concern right now? “Living up to expectations,” he said. The roster is solid, the locker room is solid, and Keim credited team president Michael Bidwill for providing all the resources needed. “Now it’s time to play football and win,” Keim said.

 


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Keim: A few spots left and CJ2K’s place

Posted by Darren Urban on August 28, 2017 – 8:13 am

Steve Keim figures there are four or five spots still left to be determined on the 53-man roster, with one preseason game left and the starters not playing Thursday. It seems that one would be at running back. It makes sense the Cardinals would only keep four running backs. David Johnson is in. Kerwynn Williams, as a back and return man, is in. (T.J. Logan will be going on injured reserve.) If you keep four, that would leave two spots for Chris Johnson, Andre Ellington and Elijhaa Penny. Penny, who is the only one of the three who plays special teams, seems to be trending as a guy who gets a spot. So does a final spot for to Johnson — who fumbled twice Saturday before coming back with a couple of good runs — or Ellington?

Keim, during an appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 Monday, kept it vague when talking about Johnson’s situation. “I’m not going to critique Chris on the radio,” Keim said. “The one thing I’ll say is that he’s a pro’s pro, he gets it, and it’s not just his performance in one preseason game that is going to make a difference. It’s the body of work throughout camp that Coach and I will look at and we’ll determine the best 53 and more importantly, who is really going to be active on game day?”

(Johnson, for his part, feels like after an offseason off, he is finally getting his game legs under him.)

— The positions still most in the air, in Keim’s eyes: Punter, a fourth outside linebacker, inside linebacker and offensive line depth. Cap Capi flashed as he tries to make a push for a final OLB spot, but the Cardinals may still be looking for a fourth guy who may not be on the roster. Jarvis Jones was supposed to be that guy but he’s been hurt virtually all of camp.

— Keim did say the third OLB spot deservedly goes to Kareem Martin. “There’s no player who has worked harder this offseason than Kareem,” Keim said, calling him the most improved of anyone on the roster.

— Keim was happy to see John Brown play well. “We all know the player John Brown can be when he is healthy,” Keim said. “He is a dynamic player who can create mismatches, which is something we desperately need from him.” Keim added that Brown is a “very important part of this puzzle,” singling out Smoke and Tyrann Mathieu as the guys who change field position.

— Keim admitted he wasn’t feeling great about Brandon Williams early in camp but that the second-year cornerback has completely changed his mind. “I feel like we have four solid corners, which is a sigh of relief,” Keim said.

— The wide receiver group responded to Bruce Arians tough words. Keim said that has shown not only on the field but “they got out of the training room,” underscoring that Arians’ frustration a couple weeks ago may have been a little bit less about play and more about availability.


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Keim: Cards want joint practices next year

Posted by Darren Urban on August 21, 2017 – 8:16 am

There were some “moving parts” that prevented anything this training camp, but Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim said during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 that “I don’t think there is any question” the Cardinals want to have at least one joint practice matchup with another team in 2018. The Cards, of course, worked out against the Chargers in San Diego in 2016, and went to St. Joseph, Missouri to have joint work with the Chiefs in 2012.

Keim said he, Bruce Arians and Michael Bidwill will talk and try to “hammer something out” for next season. The chance to sidestep camp boredom is a big factor. The Cardinals begin their fourth and final week of training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium this afternoon.

— Keim said he was not happy with the intensity of the Cardinals against the Bears Saturday. “We played the game like it was a preseason game,” he said. Not enough attention to detail was a major culprit. Defensively, way too many sloppy attempts at tackling bothered him. Even Tyrann Mathieu, who made the big interception, wasn’t immune, missing some tackles he normally makes. “That can’t happen,” Keim said, calling the amount of “leaky yards” the Cards surrendered “way too high.”

— Keim was asked specifically if Blaine Gabbert could be battling for the No. 2 QB job against Drew Stanton. “I don’t know if I look at it that way,” Keim said. “For me, it’s a process of getting to know Blaine.” Keim went on to say he is watching how Gabbert is improving in the areas they felt he needed to improve. He called Gabbert a “zero risk-to-reward” signing, which makes all this nothing but a positive if Gabbert shows anything. (But listening to Keim, it does not sound like Gabbert has a chance to unseat Stanton as No. 2, which, frankly, has been the same feeling I’ve had all along.)

— However, in praising Gabbert, Keim did say “you’d be hard-pressed to not say, the way he’s played this preseason, he could potentially be competing for some other teams’ starting positions. That’s just my opinion.”

— Cornerback Brandon Williams is “getting quite a bit better.” Williams arrived a raw rookie last year “frankly in over his head.” Now, he’s going in the right direction.

— Finally, asked if he thought retiring Anquan Boldin was Hall of Fame material, Keim said yes. But he noted he thought Adrian Wilson also deserved Hall consideration, and then noted how both players, along with a handful of others, not only performed so well on the field but were also keys in helping the Cardinals change the culture and direction of the franchise.


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A BASK health update (they’re fine. Really)

Posted by Darren Urban on August 17, 2017 – 12:33 pm

Bruce Arians is coming off his vegan diet and feels great. Steve Keim just wants to heal.

Yes, it’s the dog days of camp. There are on-field health issues to worry about, and the Cardinals are. Apparently all the missed practices for LB Karlos Dansby weren’t really vet rest days as much as a leg issue that Arians said had been bothering him. The Cards have figured out what’s what, and Arians said “he doesn’t need much work” anyway. Dansby needs to get in football shape, but there are still three weeks for that, Arians added. T D.J. Humphries came through practice looking good and is expected to play Saturday.

As for coach and the GM …

— Keim is coming off surgery to fix a torn right Achilles, when it just gave way one day last week when he stood up to walk. Instead of sitting in the stands to watch practice — or coming down to the field as he has sometimes — Keim now has to watch from the concourse. Still, Keim is going to work through the injury, and he’s expected to remain the starting GM as the Cardinals get to the end of the preseason and have to cut from 90 to 53.

— Arians was given a vegan diet in an ongoing quest to help his health. He had a big smile when he said he was able to have meat for the first time in a long time. “Had a grass-fed burger,” Arians said. “It was really good with nothing else. And a bunch of vegetables.”

Arians admitted there was “nothing” he liked about being vegan. “I’m shocked I could stick to it but I was kind of proud I did for 27 days,” Arians said.

Now, protein is slowly being reintroduced to his diet. Vegetables were OK, although Arians couldn’t have his favorite, a special brussels sprouts dish served at one of his favorite restaurants. “There’s a whole lot of butter and bacon in those babies,” Arians said. Still, he sneaked out once to have them.

“I told them I ate brussels spouts,” Arians said, a smile creeping across his face. “They said, ‘You did good.’ ”


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Keim: David Johnson needs reps

Posted by Darren Urban on August 14, 2017 – 8:16 am

Running back David Johnson only played a few snaps for the Cardinals Saturday, getting three touches — all runs, for 16 yards — on the first four plays. He was stood up on his last carry and took a shot, although General Manager Steve Keim said he wasn’t concerned.

“It’s going to be tough to hurt a 228-pound back,” Keim said during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7.

Keim also made one other thing clear: While there might be a feeling like placing Johnson in bubble wrap until the Cardinals get to the regular season could be the best course of action, it is not. “As good as he is,” Keim added, “he needs the reps as well.” There’s no substitute for getting action in a full-speed football game when it comes to getting ready for full-speed football games. That’s the reality, risk or not.

Among some of the other Keim thoughts from the morning:

— After the constant talk the past two camps about the progress of D.J. Humphries (two years ago) and Robert Nkemdiche (last year), Keim was asked if there had been anyone in particular he has been disappointed or frustrated with this camp. Keim said no. The GM admitted that early in camp he might’ve been frustrated with second-year cornerback Brandon Williams from a consistency standpoint, “but he’s picked it up. He’s working his tail off. … He’s come a long way.”

Keim said he can’t think of anyone underachieving, and given Keim’s ability to be blunt like his head coach, that’s a good sign.

— Not surprisingly, one guy Keim was pleased about from Saturday’s game was linebacker Josh Bynes. Bynes picked up the defense quickly, and Keim likes his range, speed and length. “He’s had some success in the past,” Keim said, and echoed what has become clear, that Bynes has a shot at the roster.

— Keim was happy with offensive execution and the physical play from the Cardinals. He was hoping for a three-and-out from the first-team defense after the initial TD (it should be noted the Raiders didn’t play starting quarterback Derek Carr), but that’s one of a handful of things the Cards can work on this week.

— There are still many things to improve for Nkemdiche, Keim said. But he did say Nkemdiche is “headed in the right direction,” praising his want-to, work ethic and film study.

— Film study will be important to the top two draft picks, linebacker Haason Reddick and Budda Baker. Both need to keep working on getting their eyes in the right place during plays, understanding what the offense is doing and finding a balance between quality aggressiveness and staying disciplined.

— Both punters had “extremely live legs” but Keim emphasized it’s not just the length of punts that are judged but also hang time, ball placement and such.


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Keim: Injuries will decide if Logan returns

Posted by Darren Urban on August 7, 2017 – 8:29 am

It didn’t take much to see what rookie running back T.J. Logan could do in the return game in the preseason opener. Every one saw it. It was a bummer for all when Logan dislocated a wrist, which will force surgery.

“I feel like I jinxed us because about halfway through the game I leaned over to (team president) Michael Bidwill and said, ‘We finally have our punt and kick returner,’ ” General Manager Steve Keim said during an appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “Because the things he showed, his fearless approach to catching the football in traffic, his footspeed, his acceleration, the burst you saw, gave me the feel he could be very explosive in the return game.”

Coach Bruce Arians said the hope is that Logan returns by midseason. But that isn’t just based on Logan’s recovery. It’s also based on other injuries. Logan is headed for injured reserve, and it’ll depend on circumstances for his return, Keim said.

“It’s hard to forecast injuries and how they heal,” Keim said. “There’s a chance potentially to get that thing to heal and get him back at some point in the season. Whether we do or don’t will be determined on some of the other injuries we incur. Hopefully we won’t have many.”

A new NFL rule says teams can bring two players — not just one — back from IR after eight weeks. And teams don’t have to designate who those players are until a week before their return, so there is flexibility.

Among Keim’s other comments:

— He said it’s premature to be talking about Blaine Gabbert overtaking Drew Stanton for No. 2 QB. But Gabbert has shown a quick grasp of the offense, and Keim liked that he didn’t always look to run if his first read wasn’t there.

— On defense, Keim raved about second-round safety Budda Baker, and liked the play of defensive linemen Robert Nkemdiche and Olsen Pierre.


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Cornerback shuffle continues

Posted by Darren Urban on July 29, 2017 – 12:37 pm

Bruce Arians wants the Cardinals to add a veteran cornerback, but defers to GM Steve Keim as to when (not really an if, it doesn’t seem) that happens. Nevertheless, with Justin Bethel out a couple of days after hyperextending his knee in a collision with tight end Jermaine Gresham the other day, Ronald Zamort is running with the first unit. Brandon Williams, who was supposed to be behind Bethel, is behind Zamort.

— Rookie T.J. Logan should be the kickoff return man for the Cardinals, Arians said (unless he is bad in preseason, Arians added.) But in a small surprise, Arians said Logan has been doing well on punt returns and might have a chance to do that as well. Logan has never returned punts, so it’s a work-in-progress.

— Arians wasn’t happy with the offense in Friday’s practice, disappointed in the execution. Carson Palmer technically practiced, but he didn’t do anything after individual drills. (Palmer is practicing fully today.) Arians added that Drew Stanton had a good day at practice but could have had a great day. At the same time, he acknowledged Palmer’s absence obviously impacted the offense. “That’s why he’s Carson.”

— It’s tough to be happy after a camp practice, Arians said, and he rarely is. “That’s the problem. Cardinals always win, but offense or defense, one side always beats the other. You hope it happens in and out of practice, rather than one-sided.”

 


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Before #CardsCamp, Keim’s notable camp signings

Posted by Darren Urban on July 19, 2017 – 10:02 am

As mentioned the other day, the Cardinals still have a vacancy on their 90-man roster. Bruce Arians, during an interview on Arizona Sports, indicated that the Cards could still re-sign veteran running back Chris Johnson, which has always been a possibility as long as Johnson remained on the market.

With all that in mind, a quick look at the notable veterans General Manager Steve Keim has signed in the days prior or during training camp while the Cardinals are at University of Phoenix Stadium:

2013 — T Eric Winston (started all season), LB John Abraham (led team in sacks), K Dan Carpenter (signed as competition to Jay Feely, lost battle.)

2014 — T Max Starks (eventually released at end of camp), DT Tommy Kelly (had a solid season as a replacement for the injured Darnell Dockett.)

2015 — TE Jermaine Gresham (has been team’s top tight end since), C Lyle Sendlein (started all season), RB Chris Johnson (played well before late-season injury.)

2016 — LB Donald Butler (released during final cuts), CB Mike Jenkins (was in line to start until tearing ACL).

Odds favor a couple more signings in this camp, necessary either because of play or injury. Whether they make a difference (see: 2016) we will see, but as always, the roster is churning.


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About that roster spot …

Posted by Darren Urban on July 10, 2017 – 1:51 pm

As I come back off vacation, things are still quiet around the Cardinals’ facility. Coaches and players won’t start filtering in until next week (report day for training camp is a week from Friday, with the first practice on July 22, a week from Saturday.) This is the time when the radar gets raised for a potential veteran signing for training camp.

The Cardinals currently have one open spot on the 90-man roster, a vacancy created the last time the Cards made moves more than a month ago. Odds are that it would be more of a fringe guy to fill out a position heading into camp, a name that most won’t recognize. But it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to have someone with a better chance of making the roster. The last we heard from GM Steve Keim, the team was monitoring a bunch of veterans who were possibilities (assuming the price was right.)

There are cornerbacks out there, although if  you are floating around right now, there are questions: Darrelle Revis is price v. age (and since he is already making $6 million this season and has offset language, he may not be motivated to play), Sam Shields has dealt with concussions, Brandon Flowers and Alterraun Verner are smaller. When last we heard from running back Chris Johnson, he said he was still in contact with the team. Maybe there is a guard to compete with Evan Boehm (besides rookie Dorian Johnson.)

One thing that seems certain: Adding whomever it is won’t be the only move of camp. Since Keim took over as GM, the Cardinals have averaged 18 roster moves from camp-opening week through the first cut to 75. (Again, don’t forget that a new rule means there won’t be a cut to 75 this season, only the final cut, which will take teams from 90 to 53.) The roster, through performance and injuries, will be churned soon enough.


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Keim looking at “6 to 8” player possibilities

Posted by Darren Urban on June 8, 2017 – 7:32 am

As minicamp wraps up today with a final practice before the veterans scatter for the summer, Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim said in terms of signing a veteran to help the roster, options are still on the table.

“(Team president) Michael (Bidwill) and I talked about six to eight players, who are still on the street, who could potentially come in and help us,” Keim said in an appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7.

Keim didn’t get specific, either in name or position. But he noted the obvious, based on Keim’s past veteran signings in this regard: It’s not just about a scheme fit or need, it’s also about price. The Cardinals see a value in these signings, and even if a player intrigues them, they have weighed the cost-benefit. They are only going to play “x” amount for any particular player, and they won’t blow their salary measurement out of any perceived need.

(To clarify — the Cards won’t sign as many as six or eight. That’s just the number of players that are on the radar. I’d guess some play the same position, so if one signed, the others are out. As usual, I’d anticipate one or two Keim camp specials at most, barring injuries.)

We’ve talked about this before. Maybe a cornerback makes sense (that’s the position I’d look at first). Maybe a guard if Evan Boehm doesn’t keep moving forward. Maybe a running back to fill out the room, depending on what Andre Ellington and/or Elijhaa Penny do. But to think there won’t be a signing or two around/into training camp just doesn’t do the history of Keim any justice.


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