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Keim: Watford has earned time

Posted by Darren Urban on September 21, 2015 – 8:07 am

Bobby Massie comes back from suspension today, and so the question has to be asked: Does Earl Watford remain the starting right tackle for the Cardinals?

General Manager Steve Keim, during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 Monday, said that later today he, coach Bruce Arians and offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin will discuss the lineup. Keim acknowledged he usually defers to the coaches in such situations.

But, Keim said, “I know this: Earl has earned the right to be on the field.”

Watford has held up well in two games (against admittedly weaker defenses in the Saints and Bears), especially in run blocking. And perhaps the most important thing to remember is that Arians said it was Watford’s job to lose when Watford was inserted into the starting lineup. It’s hard to think Watford has done anything to lose the job.

As Keim said, “we’ll have some options” at offensive line. Left guard Mike Iupati is expected back this week from his knee surgery, and while Keim said he likes the job Ted Larsen has done, it’s hard to believe the big free-agent signee of the offseason won’t get back to the lineup once he’s ready. Especially going against his former team in the 49ers.

Other Keim comments:

— He said the Cardinals saw some similarities between David Johnson coming out of Northern Iowa and the Bears’ Matt Forte. You have to say Johnson was the more effective running back Sunday when the Cards and Bears played.

— Keim on the Cardinals’ 2-0 start: “More than anything we have a chance to be a pretty good football team if we eliminate the mistakes.”

— The blown coverage that led to the Bears’ first touchdown, Keim said, was a miscommunication between Patrick Peterson and Jerraud Powers trying to cover out of a bunch formation.

— He said he liked the cuts and patience of running back Chris Johnson, and also his toughness in pass protection.

— Keim’s call on quarterback Carson Palmer: “He’s been a godsend for this organization.”

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Keim: Optimism for Ellington

Posted by Darren Urban on September 14, 2015 – 8:06 am

There still isn’t anything concrete on the right knee injury of running back Andre Ellington, but General Manager Steve Keim said Monday during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 that Ellington told Keim he “felt pretty good” and that the Cardinals are optimistic it is not a serious injury. Ellington is getting an MRI this morning.

Other Keim thoughts following the Cardinals’ 31-19 win over the Saints:

— Keim said he continues to be excited about the playmakers the Cardinals have, and after watching the video, said he thought the offensive line “played excellent.”

— There were things that didn’t go as well, Keim acknowledged. They were the obvious ones. The substitution issues weren’t good, and twice a defender failed to peel off and cover a running back leaking out of the backfield and it turned into a long pass. Plus the screens by the Saints were much too effective.

— Keim said if he had to give out a player of the game, he personally would split it between the two 2013 offensive line draftees: right tackle Earl Watford and right guard Jonathan Cooper. Watford for stepping up into his new position. “If you watched the game on tape you’d be proud of the way he played,” Keim said. Cooper for playing “at the level he played.” Keim noted it was Cooper’s peel-back seal block that bought Carson Palmer time to throw that touchdown pass to John Brown. “I couldn’t be more proud of Coop because he’s been through a lot.”

— As for punter Drew Butler, “I think Drew would like to have one of those punts back but I think he responded well,” Keim said, noting the final kick that pinned the Saints inside the 5.


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Keim: Cards like Barkley’s mental makeup

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

We’ve delved into why the Cardinals took Matt Barkley at quarterback already, but General Manager Steve Keim — during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 Tuesday morning — got into a little more detail.

“When you are looking at a quarterback … and you’re saying, ‘What are the traits you look for,’ the first thing you don’t say is arm strength, or foot speed or mobility,” Keim said. “To me, when you look at quarterbacks, the first thing you want is mental toughness, the second thing is the ability to process and learn.

“Those are the things that excited us about Matt Barkley. When he came out of college we spent a lot of time with him. We liked him coming out. We know he is a football junkie. The mental part of the game is not too fast for him. Now, we bring him in, not a lot of risk involved, and you see what he’s got physically. To me, that’s how you have to approach that position because they are so hard to find.”

Other Keim’s points:

— The roster is “always in flux.” Keim wouldn’t even say the current 53 would stay static through Sunday’s opener against the Saints. Something to watch, although I’d be surprised if there was a move at this point just given what is out there (and assuming no one gets hurt in practice.)

— The fact the Cardinals have only three cornerbacks on the roster isn’t lost on Keim. Having safety Tyrann Mathieu there is a bit reason the Cards were comfortable with the move, but Keim did point out there is a reason the team has three cornerbacks on the practice squad. Any one of them could be pulled up in a given week.

— Once Bobby Massie is reinstated from his two-game suspension, then Keim and Bruce Arians will figure out who might be released to make room on the roster. No reason to talk names now, Keim said, because no one knows what injuries may happen, if any, over the first two games. Keim was pleased with the way Earl Watford played right tackle in the final preseason game.

— That said, Keim deferred to Arians on any starting lineup announcements, including center. He also said he had nothing concrete to report on injury updates of G Mike Iupati and WR Michael Floyd. Arians already said Iupati wouldn’t be playing this week.

— Keim said it was “good to see” both RB Chris Johnson and LB Sean Weatherspoon play “extremely well” in the final preseason game. Keim reiterated the Cards were excited for both additions when they signed and the team is counting on their contributions.

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Analyzing the initial 53-man roster

Posted by Darren Urban on September 5, 2015 – 5:28 pm

The roster will change. Now that the Cardinals are down to 53 players, the chances of it staying the same by the time the team comes back together Tuesday isn’t great. GM Steve Keim seems almost a lock to make at least one waiver claim that comes through. But for now, here’s some of the highlights to Saturday’s choices:

— The breakdown by position looks like this:

QB 3
RB 4
TE 4
WR 6
OL 9
DL 7
CB 3
S 5
ST 3

— The Cardinals will have four cornerbacks at some point. I don’t see how they don’t. It might not be until after the first game, but I am confident they will keep the search going.

— The trade for Matt Barkley ended the chances for Logan Thomas and Phillip Sims. I don’t see them keeping a fourth QB on the practice squad.

— Two undrafted rookies make the roster in nose tackle Xavier Williams and Alani Fua. Fua, at 6-foot-5, is one of those choices Keim wanted to make the team longer and more athletic. It’s why they still like Shaq Riddick even though Riddick has been hurt so much.

— Stepfan Taylor is your “big” back with the cut of Robert Hughes. Kerwynn Williams is a fan favorite but his skill-set is just too close to Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson.

— With the suspension of Bobby Massie, it might have saved Bradley Sowell a roster spot for now. When Massie returns, we’ll see what happens. By then, the Cards might have a better sense of who they want at center, or maybe they let a tackle go.

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Keim: Raiders game “a great wake-up call”

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2015 – 8:07 am

General Manager Steve Keim acknowledged the obvious from Sunday night: There were a lot of issues offensively.

“It was a great wake-up call,” Keim said Monday during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf show” on Arizona Sports 98.7.

Of the starting offensive line, Keim said guard Ted Larsen was the only to even have a solid game. But like Bruce Arians, he saw other problems, like Carson Palmer holding the ball too long a couple of times, some poor routes from receivers, and running backs failing to chip in certain situations.

“When you have so many things go wrong at the same time, it’s a recipe for disaster,” Keim said.

— Keim said the potential Bobby Massie suspension is “up in the air” until and if the Cardinals hear something from the league office.

— The battle at center between A.Q. Shipley and Lyle Sendlein remains ongoing, Keim said. (Shipley did have some issues Sunday night holding off the inside of the Raiders’ line, including ex-Cardinal Dan Williams.)

— Earl Watford played well, Keim said, reinforcing my view that Watford held up pretty good against stud Raiders pass rusher Kahlil Mack.

— Nothing has changed with Mike Iupati, other than he continues to rehab. Personally, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t miss some regular-season time, but we will see.

— Keim acknowledged there probably hasn’t been a preseason game the last two years where he hasn’t been concerned or there had not been some ups and downs. But he also said that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to feel good about. He thought the defense — other than a couple of blown assignments on coverage — played well. And he was happy with the play specifically of linebackers Alex Okafor and Kevin Minter and defensive end Calais Campbell.

— Keim said both running back Chris Johnson and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon “have a chance” to play in Thursday’s preseason finale.

— The 12 roster moves needed to get to 75 should come today. “No reason to waste any time,” Keim said. The Cardinals practice this afternoon.


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Keim: Speed good, protection not as much

Posted by Darren Urban on August 24, 2015 – 8:11 am

The Cardinals enter the dog days of training camp with one final week at University of Phoenix Stadium beginning today. And as GM Steve Keim talked about the Cards’ most recent performance, there was no eye-popping news — which, in a preseason where injuries are usually the biggest news, Keim noted correctly that coming out relatively healthy was the top story.

Otherwise, Keim’s thoughts when talking on the “Doug and Wolf Show” on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM:

— He likes the weapons on offense, with the speed at receiver and the versatility at running back, “if we can protect Carson,” Keim said.

“There’s no question in my mind there are some concerns,” Keim said.

Keim said the offensive line messed up a couple of times on combo moves from the defense. Watching the game back myself, it definitely looked like backs Andre Ellington and David Johnson at least once each (and possibly more) missed on chances either to pick up a blitzer or help chip block, one of the reasons there were multiple hits and six first-half sacks by the Chargers.

“It’s one thing to be beat physically, but to blow assignments mentally is unacceptable,” Keim said.

— Keim said he thinks new defensive coordinator James Bettcher is “doing an excellent job,” noting all the blitzing the Cards have done. It did seem like the Cards blitzed almost every play in the last half of the fourth quarter.

— Another Keim shoutout for undrafted rookie defensive tackle Xavier Williams. I will be shocked if Williams does not make this roster.

— Keim thought, other that one sack allowed, that right tackle Bradley Sowell played “pretty good” as a starter. D.J. Humphries, not as much. “He’s a guy on one play looks exactly like the first round pick we selected” and others, not very good, Keim said. “The bottom line is his consistency.” The Cardinals want more — much more — from Humphries. But Keim noted it’s still very early in Humphries’ process. (In other words, he’s not close to a bust.)

— Natural praise for running back David Johnson after that performance.

— There is no leader for the No. 3 quarterback job, although Keim said “Phillip (Sims) looked really patient and poised in the pocket.” I don’t think we’ll ever hear that one is ahead of the other one, not before a decision is made. Keim said both still aren’t consistent enough. And there is still the chance the Cards carry only two QBs on the 53=man roster.

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The race at running back

Posted by Darren Urban on August 18, 2015 – 9:30 am

So now Chris Johnson joins the Cardinals and the team did not get rid of a running back as he walked in the door. It’s a crowded backfield. For the record, the Cards now have Andre Ellington, two Johnsons — David and Chris — Kerwynn Williams, Stepfan Taylor, Marion Grice, Robert Hughes and Paul Lasike.

Johnson — the new one — only signed a one-year contract. He becomes the latest in a line of vets who were wooed by GM Steve Keim for the chance at getting a shot on a good team to revive their contract worth. Frostee Rucker. Matt Shaughnessy. Karlos Dansby. Eric Winston. Antonio Cromartie. LaMarr Woodley. Jermaine Gresham. Even Lyle Sendlein. Johnson reportedly will only make the minimum salary too, unless he rushes for at least 1,300 yards (which a back has never reached since the team moved to Arizona.)

What does all that mean? Well, for starters, if Johnson doesn’t work out the way the Cardinals want through the rest of the preseason, he can be released without much impact on the salary cap ($400,000 is guaranteed.) More likely he’ll simply be part of the rotation. If I had to guess right now, the Cardinals will keep five running backs. Ellington will be the starter. The two Johnsons will be there. After that? I’d think there would be one between Hughes and Lasike as the “big” back — Hughes has the inside track there — and one among Taylor, Williams and Grice. Taylor is good on special teams, and Williams’ game is similar to Ellington’s and Chris Johnson’s (plus, he could go on the practice squad if necessary.)

As for the desire to pick up a veteran and supplanting a recent draft pick, this too is something Keim has already done. The Cardinals drafted inside linebacker Kevin Minter in 2013 in the second round and turned around and signed Dansby just couple weeks later, and Dansby’s play left Minter on the bench all season. Now, David Johnson may have the same thing with Chris Johnson. For Keim, it’s about what the Cardinals can do this year.


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Keim: Johnson update and Chiefs review

Posted by Darren Urban on August 17, 2015 – 8:14 am

Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim, during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf Show” on Arizona Sports 98.7, acknowledged he has had discussions with the agent for running back Chris Johnson. But as of Monday morning, “there is nothing on the horizon,” Keim said. Johnson was expected to work out for the team. As I’ve said a few times, we’ll see what pans out.

As for Keim’s view of the game:

— He praised a handful of young players for their initial performances: Defensive end Rodney Gunter and linebacker Markus Golden (although he wants to see Golden finish more often), and from the non-rookie side, cornerback Justin Bethel and linebacker Kevin Minter. The latter two are in big years in terms of earning regular position spots on defense.

— As for the first units on both sides of the ball, “I don’t think you could have scripted a better start,” Keim said.

— On Logan Thomas, Keim said he liked the quarterback’s pocket presence. “There are times when he makes some really ‘Wow’ throws,” Keim said. “The question is consistency and I think he played a consistent game.” Keim did note that Thomas completed 11-of-12 passes in the preseason opener last year, so again, it’s about consistency going forward.

— Not surprisingly, he thought tight end Ifeanyi Momah competed and looks like a nice option as receiver, but needs to get better as a blocker in terms of technique since he won’t have the bulk or body type to ever maul as a blocker.

— Keim was happy with the “excellent” play of the starting offensive line and also thought the backup offensive line did a good job. It should, really, since it’s populated with three one-time starters (Sowell, Larsen, Sendlein) and a first-round pick (D.J. Humphries). Keim said Humphries had some technical issues in his first game but showed the physical play and the athleticism the Cards liked when he was drafted.

— Going forward, Keim said there are still many questions open, such as fourth and fifth cornerback, the back end of the wide receiver depth chart, core special teamers. The Cards did come out of the game “relatively healthy,” Keim said.

— As for wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald getting munched by pulling guard Mike Iupati on the Cards’ touchdown run — Fitz was blocking a Chiefs’ defensive back when Iupati came in to clean up and looked like he got mostly Fitz — Keim was blunt. “We all know Larry is a tough guy. He’ll stick his face in the fire.”

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Keim’s first-week analysis of #CardsCamp

Posted by Darren Urban on August 10, 2015 – 8:16 am

Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim reiterated today that there could be a trade or two for the Cardinals as the regular season approaches and the team tries to figure out what they do with a couple positions of depth — in particular, the quality group of defensive linemen the team has compiled. He also said, during the first of his weekly appearances on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, that a trade usually comes down to a focus on positions of need rather than the best player available.

As for the Cards’ own positions of need right now, Keim named three spots, all of which have been impacted by early injuries: Running back, inside linebacker and offensive tackle. Running back and tackle, Keim said, are OK when the Cards are healthy and he added Andre Ellington should return to practice this week. (The Cards are also missing David Johnson and Marion Grice, while young tackles D.J. Humphries and Rob Crisp are also out.)

One position Keim is bullish on is tight end. He praised Ifeanyi Momah a ton, which just falls in line with what has been easy to see on the field. Momah has been OK blocking — he’s definitely missed a couple during 11-on-11, but he will be a receiver-first tight end, and he does that well — while Keim also is happy with Darren Fells and is excited about Jermaine Gresham. Now, if Troy Niklas can get back and going …

— Keim, like Bruce Arians, wouldn’t put a timeline on Michael Floyd’s return, but he noted how focused Floyd was before he got hurt and reiterated what a big season this is for Floyd and his future in Arizona.

— The defensive line is deep and talented. Rookie Rodney Gunter is flashing what the Cards had hoped, and there is a belief Gunter can work at nose tackle as well as defensive end. Keim also said Corey Peters is having a good camp.


— Keim believes guard Jonathan Cooper has lost the “hitch” he developed after breaking his leg and looks like he did when he was trending up in his rookie training camp. He also praised the camp of inside linebacker Kevin Minter and outside linebacker Alex Okafor.


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Recent history says Gresham will help

Posted by Darren Urban on July 24, 2015 – 9:59 pm

There are questions, fair ones, about what tight end Jermaine Gresham will bring to the Cardinals now that he has agreed to a one-year contract. (With the roster already at 90, the Cards will have to release someone once Gresham officially signs.) But as usual with GM Steve Keim’s prove-it deals, there is very little downside to make the move and the potential of real upside.

Assuming Gresham is healthy after back surgery — and he would’ve had to have passed a physical already — he gives the Cards a receiving target that has done it in the NFL, which the Cards did not have on the roster. It gives the Cards experience, period, which the Cards didn’t have. Plus, he played some with Carson Palmer, and while Gresham has had issues with consistency, Palmer is the type of leader that can help in that regard.

As of now, it’s hard to imagine Gresham not as starter assuming he plays as expected. And thus far, these kinds of Keim signings — Winston, Abraham, Dansby, Cromartie — have turned out pretty well.

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