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Keim: If clinch, to rest or not to rest

Posted by Darren Urban on December 14, 2015 – 8:07 am

What will happen if and when the Cardinals lock up their playoff position — which, given the way they are playing and the way the Panthers are playing, could happen with the Cards still having regular-season games to play? General Manager Steve Keim said he and coach Bruce Arians would have discussions if that were to come to pass with the Cardinals. The fear, of course, is resting guys so much, Keim said on his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” Show on Arizona Sports 98.7, that they are then not ready to play come playoff time.

(And don’t forget, you sit guys for Week 17 and then have a bye, then some key players will have not played a game for three weeks before a playoff game.)

We’ll see what happens. “I’m just happy to be in that position to have that conversation,” Keim said.

— Keim reiterated it was good for the Cardinals to get the mini-bye after the Thursday game. Keim said the Cards are hoping to get a handful of players back from injury, although he wasn’t specific. Guys to watch for at practice this week: DT Frostee Rucker, TE Jermaine Gresham, CB Jerraud Powers, RB Andre Ellington.

— Asked what he was thinking when Dwight Freeney sacked Teddy Bridgewater to clinch the win over the Vikings, Keim said “I was thinking that’s the best $200,000 we’ve spent.” Freeney’s contract called for a $200,000 incentive to kick in on his fourth sack of the season. The Bridgewater takedown was it.

— Keim admitted the Cardinals didn’t play all that well offensively against Minnesota. But he said he continues to be impressed by rookie running back David Johnson, especially for beyond what he does running the ball. Keim raved about Johnson’s receiving abilities, and also noted Johnson’s “deceptive speed.”

 


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Keim: Floyd has been excellent

Posted by Darren Urban on December 7, 2015 – 8:20 am

It got lost in the shuffle somewhat during the Cardinals’ win Sunday, but once again, wide receiver Michael Floyd had a very nice game. Included in it was the game-changing 31-yard catch Floyd made to convert a third down and spark the 98-yard touchdown drive that put the Cardinals in control. Floyd had the tough start this season coming off the hand injury of the preseason, but he’s a major component of the offense during this winning streak — even with his hamstring injury.

“It starts with a young man who has grown and matured the last couple of years,” General Manager Steve Keim said during his appearance Monday on the “Doug and Wolf Show” on Arizona Sports 98.7.

“He’s been excellent.”

Floyd’s contract option for 2016 was already picked up last summer. Keim said any extension would be discussed after the season — the pressing contracts are the guys who will be free agents. Floyd’s future once had some question marks in terms of being in Arizona. It’s hard to see the Cards not wanting to keep him.

Other Keim thoughts:

— The win over the Rams came across the whole 53-man roster, he said. “There’s a lot of credit to go around.”

— Keim was happy with the play of cornerback Justin Bethel, who signed a contract extension Saturday and was tested often Sunday, only to hold up. Bethel not only played all 50 defensive snaps, he also played a team-high 23 special teams snaps.

Keim said he told Bethel “not only does this contract reward you for you contribution on the past, but it acknowledges the expectations we have for you going forward.”

— The play of running back Kerwynn Williams isn’t unexpected. When the Cardinals reluctantly cut him at the end of the preseason, Keim said he was sure Williams was gone, soon to be claimed by another team. Then, even after Williams was available on the practice squad (twice, the Cards promoted him earlier this season and cut him again), no one grabbed him. Keim said he was “thankful” for that.

— No, it’s not great when rookie running back David Johnson fumbles. But Keim said it’s hard not to see Johnson’s “special qualities.” You want Johnson to improve, but the Cardinals may just find a way to live with it until Johnson does.

— Keim admitted watching live, he thought QB Carson Palmer was hit too much, but going back and watching the video, it is probably inevitable given the amount of pressure the Rams bring and the talent of the players who bring it. (Multiple Cardinals offensive linemen were shaking their head after the game at what a beast Rams DT Aaron Donald is and how hard it is to handle him.)

“As a GM, you hate to see quarterback get hit at all, but when you play the Rams, there are going to be some,” Keim said.


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Keim: MRIs pending, but hoping RBs day-to-day

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2015 – 8:12 am

Nothing certain yet on the injuries to running backs Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington, but General Manager Steve Keim said Monday during his appearance on “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7 that Johnson (bone bruise on his left knee) and Ellington (toe on right foot) both are believed to be day-to-day for now. Both are awaiting MRI results.

As for Sunday’s win, Keim was, not surprisingly, filled with mixed emotions. He noted a phone call he got from close friend/former co-worker/current Bucaneers GM Jason Licht, who told him when watching film of a victory not to be mad just appreciative of a win. Keim said it was good advice. Nevertheless, after watching the 49ers game, Keim acknowledged he was “a little frustrated” and has a page full of notes that “aren’t very good.”

“But a win is a win,” Keim said. “Sometimes, there are letdowns, unfortunately.”

— Keim wouldn’t say the Cardinals got beat up physically up front by the 49ers defensive line. There were times when the Cards were physically beat for sure. Mostly though, Keim said the issues were fundamental, mistakes in passing off blocks on stunts and twists, getting the face across numbers, weakness in getting off combo blocks into the second level that often create the run lanes. It echoed Bruce Arians’ comments after the game that it was about mental lapses on the blocking more than physical.

— Asked about Patrick Peterson’s move to bring in the defense today for film work despite Arians giving the players a Victory Monday off, Keim noted how Peterson has grown into a leader. It doesn’t hurt that Peterson is playing (easily, in my opinion) the best football of his career. Keim: “I don’t know if there is a corner playing better football than Pat right now.”

— There were times when QB Carson Palmer looked a little rattled Sunday. Keim said Palmer can’t be expected to play perfect football every game. “I think Carson would tell you not one of his better games, but he made some huge plays,” Keim added.

— Not a great day for punter Drew Butler or kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who for a second time missed a point-after that could have cost the Cardinals big. Keim noted that the Cards had already brought in other punters and kickers for workouts recently.

“Since then (Butler and Catanzaro) have kicked pretty well,” Keim said. “Sunday, no question that was a concern.”


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Keim: Peterson’s value/injury, and rookie help

Posted by Darren Urban on November 23, 2015 – 8:13 am

Before Patrick Peterson got hurt Sunday night, he was once again playing excellent cornerback, making life very hard for Bengals start wide receiver A.J. Green. Then he hurt his ankle, and General Manager Steve Keim said Monday morning on his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports that he had no new news and that Peterson was getting an MRI. But just listening to Keim, it drives home the critical nature of having Peterson — or potentially not having him — in the lineup.

“Last year, some of the concerns with Patrick … (were) issues with consistency,” Keim said. “A lot of it had to do with playing weight. He came back in phenomenal shape. Now his level of consistency, he’s taken to a whole different level.” And that’s even putting Peterson in “some really tough positions” on an island so the defense can do things elsewhere on the field.

If Peterson can’t go, the most likely scenario is Justin Bethel stepping in to the lineup and the Cardinals using former Arizona State corner Robert Nelson Jr., who has been on the roster but inactive the last two games. Nelson played for the Browns a little last season.

Other Keim thoughts from the win over the Bengals:

— The storyline that excited Keim the most (perhaps not all that surprisingly) was the big game from the rookie class. Led by J.J. Nelson and Markus Golden, the draftees were good, and that’s with No. 1 pick D.J. Humphries still inactive.

— The turnaround in the game started with Carson Palmer, Keim said, but he also said the Cardinals’ offensive line finally starting matching the intensity and physicality of the Bengals’ defensive line in the second half.

— Keim noted that defensive coordinator James Bettcher did a nice job dialing up some pressure on Bengals QB Andy Dalton, but it also left the Cards susceptible to mismatches — notably linebacker Kevin Minter trying to cover quick running back Gio Bernard. (That didn’t go so well most of the night.)

The Cardinals are talented, and Keim has noticed all the national analysts suggesting the Cardinals might have the most talented roster in the league. But “all I see is holes,” he said. “Areas where we need to improve, where we need to get better.” Not shockingly, those start up front — a better pass rush, and more consistency in pass protection.

— As for the national attention that’s beginning to build, “you have to embrace it when you consider where we’ve come from,” he said.

— The record of 8-2 is nice, Keim said, but it’s nothing right now.

“We haven’t arrived,” Keim said. “We haven’t won any championships yet. Last year was a great lesson for us, starting 9-1 and having things crumble away.”


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Keim: Iupati sore but OK

Posted by Darren Urban on November 16, 2015 – 8:20 am

Considering how scary it was to see a 6-foot-5, listed-at-331-pound man down on the field to the point where an ambulance had to come on the field to take him away, the news about guard Mike Iupati was incredibly excellent after the game. Bruce Arians said last night Iupati has been cleared going forward. General Manager Steve Keim didn’t quite go that far during his appearance Monday morning on “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7, but it sure sounds like there is at least a chance Iupati could be ready for next the upcoming Sunday night game against the Bengals. (Iupati looked like he was walking around fine when I saw him on the plane last night.)

“He’s pretty sore, but thank goodness there were no major issues from an injury standpoint,” Keim said.

Some other Keim points on a (very) short night, after the Cardinals didn’t even land at Sky Harbor until 3:15 a.m.:

— Keim wouldn’t say the Cardinals needed to win in Seattle, but echoed the sentiment of some of his players, that it was a “confidence-builder.”

“Playing up there you know you’re going to face adversity at some point,” Keim said. Yet the Cardinals rallied. The Cardinals, by the way, didn’t even win the turnover battle, with a minus-two for the game. No one expected that in Seattle, but now, that’s two Palmer wins there in a row despite losing the turnover faceoff.

— Keim noted the communication issues a couple of times with the pass protection.

— Keim said the drive that really stuck with him was the one ending with Jermaine Gresham to give the Cardinals a lead they didn’t relinquish. For Carson Palmer, that “was a statement drive.”

“That was a drive that really embodies the type of guy he is,” Keim said. “The leader he is, the mental toughness he has and the competitive spirit he has.”

Keim also marveled at the way Palmer continues to keep plays alive with his footwork in the pocket. Palmer was really, really good at that Sunday night.

— Props from Keim to wide receivers Jaron Brown and Brittan Golden, who came up big when no one expected.

— Some other players he noted for playing good games were defensive linemen Calais Campbell and Frostee Rucker. As for wide receiver Michael Floyd, “he has really, really matured,” Keim said, adding that his practice habits are good and Floyd has “completely bought in.”


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Potential extensions aren’t a given

Posted by Darren Urban on November 12, 2015 – 9:46 am

Last week, we delved into the number of Cardinals headed for free agency at the end of the season. General Manager Steve Keim has had discussions here and there with agents about particular players (no, he hasn’t been specific) in an attempt to get an extension or two done. But not surprisingly, it’s not a simple process.

Keim said the Cardinals would like to lock up a player or two before March but “any deal we do this early has to be beneficial to both team and player.”

“A lot of time, and it’s just the realistic way of business, sometimes these players want to see what is out there on the market,” Keim said. “Which is why our philosophy has been, go at them strong, be aggressive and let them know if they test the market, there might not be a home back here for them. That’s just the business, because you can’t be caught flat-footed.

“There are several key core players we’d love to have back but at the same time when you have a good football team, there’s only so much to go around with the salary cap and you have to be smart how you divvy up that money. The great thing is, in my opinion, with what has changed here, is the allure of playing here, of wanting to be part of something special.”

Half the Cardinals’ secondary are headed for free agency. There has been a lot of talk about running back Chris Johnson as well, although that’s a situation that will likely have to play out on the market. Johnson said he hasn’t even thought about a contract extension.

 


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Keim: Trade talks, but “no reason to panic”

Posted by Darren Urban on November 2, 2015 – 8:16 am

The NFL trade deadline is Tuesday. Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim said there are always talks going on, but there is “nothing imminent.”

“It’s always tough to pull off a deal,” Keim said Monday during his appearance on “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7. Teams often want more than other teams are willing to give up. “We’re in a position where we feel pretty good about our roster,” Keim said. “There is no reason to panic.”

He was asked specifically about finding a pass rusher. Keim noted teams aren’t trading pass rushers (they’re not) unless a) they make too much money for what they are or b) there is another issue off-the-field. That’s what happens. Teams need pass rushers too much to ever want to trade a decent one.

Keim was also asked about possible contract extensions. It was reported Sunday Keim has been talking extension with running back Chris Johnson, which isn’t a surprise (and I’d guess CJ isn’t the only one that the team has talked with about a deal.) But talks don’t mean a deal is close. Sometimes, it just means the team and the agent trade ideas of what they are looking for. There are a lot of variables that go into this.

“To get a deal done, it needs to be beneficial to both team and player,” Keim said. “Sometimes that’s difficult to do.”

When a player is eight games away (plus playoffs?) from unrestricted free agency and the open market, there are reasons to want to wait. And the Cardinals want to make sure their deals fit the budget and the future plan and all the puzzle pieces that come together for the 2016 roster, and the 2017 roster, etc.

As for the rest of Keim’s thoughts …

— Keim said he is not satisfied with the season given what the Cardinals still have to work on, but “but I feel good about the record. We’re in a pretty good position.” The Cardinals are 6-2, after all.

— Keim praised the “attitude and toughness” of tight end Jermaine Gresham, noting that Gresham is coming into his own. Gresham did make a couple of nice third-down catches Sunday.

— Michael Floyd also had his best game of the year. “With Mike, we were never down on him,” Keim said. Floyd just had to wait for his opportunities with all the weapons the Cardinals have. A quick aside: Floyd was big Sunday with John Brown not playing. We’ll see how they mesh when Brown gets back on the field.

— Keim was happy with the play of rookie wideout J.J. Nelson. The speed is obvious. Keim liked his stop-and-start ability and his precise route-running.


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Keim: Extension meetings with agents upcoming

Posted by Darren Urban on October 27, 2015 – 8:10 am

On this Tuesday morning, General Manager Steve Keim is flying out. It’s to visit Ohio State, he said during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, and it’s also to speak to agents about contract extensions. Now, Keim was careful not to mention who. It could be about a veteran like a Chris Johnson or Jermaine Gresham, guys that are on one-year deals. It could also be about one of the many defensive backs who are coming into free agency, like Justin Bethel or Rashad Johnson or Jerraud Powers. Maybe a combination, or someone else. But given the amount of potential free agents the Cardinals can have after the season, locking someone down seems prudent if a deal can be reached.

— Keim said he can’t argue with the win Monday night. But given that it could’ve — and maybe should’ve — ended 27-10, “I certainly would’ve been a lot happier.”

— He called the fourth-quarter special-teams “meltdown” — with the missed extra point and the punt block, “the most disappointing.”

— The offensive line protected fairly well, Keim said, and he called Carson Palmer’s 20-for-29 night with 2 TDs and no picks “efficient.” He also said, in terms of the offensive line, “I still don’t think we’ve played our best football up front.” That will come as the group continues to grow together as the season rolls along.

— No word yet on cornerback Powers’ hamstring. But as I said last night, that’s one of those positions on an otherwise deep roster that can least afford an injury.

— Keim called the play in which running back Chris Johnson got up and finished a 62-yard scamper a “heads-up play” although he said he wished Johnson would have been slightly more patient and waited for a John Brown block so he could’ve finished the touchdown run. (As a side note, the Cardinals only got three points out of that whole thing.)


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A missed opportunity, and Keim seeks focus

Posted by Darren Urban on October 19, 2015 – 8:07 am

Before we get to GM Steve Keim on this Monday morning, this one is going to hurt. If there was a time you were going to win in Pittsburgh, it was Sunday, when Ben Roethlisberger is out and the left tackle gets hurt early in the game and the defense is missing a couple of starting linebackers and a starting cornerback. This might end up more painful than the Rams game (although in the end, that may not be true, since the Rams game was a) at home and b) within the division.) That’s two close games in which the Cardinals had the chance to pull out in the fourth quarter — games the Cards won all last year — and didn’t do enough on either side of the ball.

As for Keim during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7:

— The GM said he is happy with the Cardinals’ toughness. What he wants to see is “improved focus.”

“These guys are confident, they have some swagger, they play physical,” Keim said. “But when you lose focus, when you void run lanes or break down in coverage or you miss a protection, it can really change the outcome of the game. To me it’s the focus that needs to be improved.”

— Keim, like his players, lamented the Steelers game because he felt the Cardinals beat themselves. Keim deferred to Bruce Arians on why the Cards didn’t run more, but he said he thought Arians wanted to exploit mismatches against the Steelers’ secondary, which the Cards did a healthy part of the day — they just again bogged down in the red zone (and Carson Palmer made one very poor decision.)

— His offensive line assessment: The tackles did OK. Guard Mike Iupati was better than the previous weeks. Guard Jonathan Cooper and center Lyle Sendlein were up and down.

— Keim on the stay at The Greenbrier: “I think it was definitely a success.” He said the ability to adjust to the time change was a big deal. (As an aside, I will not be surprised if the Cardinals end up back in West Virginia at some point in the future. Not sure when, but someday.)


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Cardinals to sign Freeney

Posted by Darren Urban on October 12, 2015 – 11:53 am

Nothing official yet — until the ink is on the contract, it rarely is — but it looks like the Cardinals will be signing veteran pass rusher Dwight Freeney to a one-year contract to bolster the pass rush. Given the history both Bruce Arians and defensive coordinator James Bettcher have with Freeney (they coached him in Indianapolis) it fits, and after Alex Okafor hurt his calf Sunday and figures to miss time, they need more help out there to go with LaMarr Woodley, Kareem Martin and rookies Markus Golden and Shaq Riddick.

(UPDATE: It’s official now.)

Freeney had 3.5 sacks last season for San Diego before he was released in the spring. He was generally regarded as a player who consistently got pressure on the quarterback in a limited pass rushing role. How quickly he can add to the Cardinals remains to be seen, since he didn’t have an offseason with a team or a training camp. But it is reportedly another of GM Steve Keim’s minimum-salary deals with incentives, so the upside remains greater than the downside, which is how this team has been built.

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