Keim on the future of the Cards’ receivers

Posted by Darren Urban on December 26, 2016 – 8:22 am

One of the big things Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim is going to have to deal with this offseason is the receivers room. It could be in major flux. Michael Floyd is already gone, Larry Fitzgerald could retire, and Smoke Brown is still trying to fully handle his sickle-cell issues. Monday, during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, Keim spoke on many of those players.

When it comes it Fitz, “he still loves the game and still plays at a high level,” Keim said. “There’s no doubt in my mind he should play next year.” Of course, Keim added, that will be up to Fitz. J.J. Nelson was fantastic in Seattle with 132 yards on three catches, including two giant plays that boosted the win. As far as him as a potential No. 2 receiver, “I’m not sure what his ceiling is, I just know he is a big-play guy.” He did say he thinks receivers coach Darryl Drake has helped Nelson become more physical. (But I’d agree, I think Nelson is developing into a nice and needed piece in the offense, but I don’t see him as a potential big-volume guy week-to-week.)

As for Brown, Keim acknowledged it is “always a concern when you can’t put a finger on exactly what is happening” when it comes to Brown’s health. But he said Brown will see specialists as soon as the offseason ends so that he and the Cardinals can find the proper way for both Brown to be healthy and for him to find again what was making him special on the field. “He’s a guy we are counting on,” Keim added.

— Keim has been very impressed — other than his foolish taunting penalty — with tight end Jermaine Gresham. The Cardinals have needed some emotional fire on offense, and Gresham definitely helps with that. “His physicality, mindset and passion for the game is something that has really excited me this year,” Keim said, noting Gresham’s effort in blocking more than anything. It’ll be interesting to see what Gresham does as a free agent, after signing here for little last season when he could’ve gotten a lot more money elsewhere. (And he needs to avoid the terrible penalties because of his emotions too.)

— Not surprisingly, he had praise for the offensive line, given the circumstances. “If you told me in August we’d beat Seattle in Seattle with John Wetzel and Earl Watford at tackle and Evan Boehm at guard, it’d certainly make me wonder,” Keim said. “For the most part those guys did the job.”

Carson Palmer was under pressure more than once but he was sacked only once and physically, the offensive line stayed toe-to-toe with a much-more celebrated opponent.

— There were a couple of throws he thought Palmer would’ve wanted back, but other than that, Palmer was sharp, Keim said. “He’s a competitor and true pro,” Keim said. “He’s been very, very good the last several weeks.”

— Another young player who held up was cornerback-turned-safety Harlan Miller, who played every snap at free safety when Tony Jefferson got hurt on the punt team before he even played a defensive play. Miller, by the way, hadn’t played safety before. “It was interesting,” Keim said. “On Friday, when B.A. came into my office and I let him know we were going to put Tyrann on IR, he told me that if Tony or D.J. Swearinger went down, we’d be in trouble just from a depth standpoint. Sure enough, first play of the game, Tony Jefferson is out.

“Harlan trots on to the field, and to his credit, the guy has never played safety before, coach Nick Rapone and James Bettcher put him in a position where he made a few plays and didn’t hurt the team. He’s another young guy who stepped up.”

— Finally, a good day for special teams. “That’s a group that’s been maligned and rightfully so,” Keim said. “But they stepped up to the plate.”

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33 Responses to “Keim on the future of the Cards’ receivers”

  1. By Big Ken on Dec 26, 2016 | Reply

    Lots of bright spots in Saturday’s win. Glad to see some guys get a chance to step up and play.

  2. By lacardinalsfan on Dec 26, 2016 | Reply

    No mention of Wile specifically? What a shame, kid was spectacular!!!! I have never been so excited to punt.

  3. By Steve on Dec 26, 2016 | Reply

    Darren: If you were a betting man, do you think Fitz comes back for one more year or retires?

  4. By Darren Urban on Dec 26, 2016 | Reply

    Steve —

    RE: Fitz

    I don’t know if I could take a guess right now. I truly believe it is 50-50.

  5. By creditcard on Dec 26, 2016 | Reply

    Nice article on Shipley. I’ve been critical of him all year. Both guards positions have been a turnstile on season. sometimes the interior push up the middle does not allow a true pocket for Palmer to step into.

    I’m still upset about when the Cards had two punters (one for holding place kicks and the other to do the punting). This ultimately led the Cards to release Marquis Christian — a promising safety / CB. In turn the Rams picked up immediately and converted him to CB, whereby he has seen lots of SP action and some DB action. Christian has done well for the Rams, until he got hurt. He is now on IR — but as mentioned the Rams are pleased with him. The Cards have subsequently moved on from both of those punters.

    WR will be iffy going into next season. If Larry Fitzgerald retires, Brown can’t play, Nelson is not that big …. only backups and rookies will be the receiving corps. A weak O-line as well — Carson Palmer might decide to retire as well (why get your body beat up with that type of scenario. I am in hoes both Fitz and Palmer return, for the Card’s best avenue for success is with those two men, but they may retire if management does not correct the current direction the Cards are in.

  6. By Scott H on Dec 26, 2016 | Reply

    Without Fitz, there is just so much of a drop off. Both J Browns are good WR’s but neither is a bonafide #1 WR. And Nelson is becoming more of a legit contributor but he DEFINITELY seems like that kind of player where if you need him to be an every down player……he’s probably not gonna give you what you need. Though he has shown he is not JUST a one-trick pony this year, he is much better suited to the big-play role. PHYSICALLY, he is not up to taking a lot of hits. Let him start taking physical punishment that Fitz does these last few seasons, and he ain’t gonna last long. For that matter, neither would Smoky. They’re too small.

    Without Fitz and Floyd, there is no BIG WR that gives the offense what a BIG WR gives you. That is a problem. Without Fitz, we would need a Demaryrius Thomas / Amari Cooper type WR to fill that void.

    In other areas, maybe all the injuries will have the hidden blessing of finding out that some of these other guys can be pieces we can count on going forward. But that always has its limits.

  7. By JTDG on Dec 26, 2016 | Reply

    Ready for this Scott H,

    JJ Nelson is becoming the guy the cards thought Ted Ginn would be and is for Carolina.

    Not a #1 or #2 but a big play guy.

    Loved how he turned Sherman around on the slant, he was so afraid he was going to run by him, he started to turn and run and JJ broke it off into a slant.

    Great play call by Palmer. I am sure Palmer signaled JJ and everyone else ran a different play. Darren, tell me if that wasn’t an audible.

  8. By Darren Urban on Dec 27, 2016 | Reply

    JTDG —

    RE: Audible

    I don’t know for sure, but it looked like an audible to me.

  9. By JTDG on Dec 26, 2016 | Reply

    Calais Campbell is making more and more money each week. The guy is on fire. Maybe too good, as cards may not be able to afford him

  10. By JTDG on Dec 26, 2016 | Reply

    DJ Swearinger played a great game shutting down Jimmy Graham.

    The only TD he got was off of a blown zone coverage.

    With Jefferson and Swearinger, I love these safeties. The thought that we can’t sign them because of the Badgers contract makes me sad.

    I personally think they can sign them both if they just push their contracts into 2018. But doubt it gets done.

  11. By JTDG on Dec 26, 2016 | Reply

    I think the Rams game is a big one for Sio Moore. I think he did an excellent job on the read option.

    He was average against the saints. It will be interesting how he does against the Rams .

  12. By JTDG on Dec 26, 2016 | Reply

    Is there a worst CB in the NFL than Brandon Williams?

    This guy is so bad in coverage. He is so far off from being capable of playing in the NFL.

    Might be worth taking a look at safety with him. He is an ok tackler and has speed. Let him learn how to be a free safety, or just release him. He doesn’t even have the basics down. The NFL isn’t a place that you learn at.

  13. By JTDG on Dec 26, 2016 | Reply

    Nkemdichi is a huge work in progress. Watched the goal line stand again.

    They guy gets blown 4 yards into the end zone. Fortunately, they ran to the other side. They do it again, and he is blown out again, but they run again at the right side.

    This guy just can’t get off a block, is moved from his spot too easily. A lot can happen in a year, but if he doesn’t get better over the offseason, he won’t dress out in 2017 either.

  14. By JTDG on Dec 26, 2016 | Reply

    Palmer has been so good over the past few weeks.

    I think he played in the Seattle game as well as any in 2015.

    Please help him out. Improve that line, and give him one more weapon in the passing game.

    I would love to see what he could do protected and healthy weapons over the 16 games+ in 2017.

    Give him a cance Keim.

  15. By georgiebird on Dec 26, 2016 | Reply

    The Cards need one of the wide receivers in the top class- hopefully, a guy like Beckham or Cooper. But I don’t see that guy in this draft-does SK ??
    After that, the Cards need defensive players. As I look back on the many positives and negatives from this season, giving up passes to open receivers has to be the Cards’ most glaring deficiency.

  16. By Marlin on Dec 27, 2016 | Reply


    Question re 2 players:

    Gunter – where has he been all year? Seems like he lost his starting job beginning of season. He’s finally showing up. Any insight?

    Watford – any opinion as to whether he gets re-signed? My sense is that he’ll have bigger offers than we are willing to give him (same with Okafor).

  17. By Darren Urban on Dec 27, 2016 | Reply

    Marlin —

    RE: Questions

    Gunter has been part of the rotation and hasn’t been displaced, so he had to be doing something right, but you are right, he hasn’t been splashy at all.

    As for Watford and Okafor, if they have a chance to play elsewhere, they may. They will be backups here and I’m not sure that’s what they are looking for.

  18. By Andy M on Dec 27, 2016 | Reply

    Assuming Jaron Brown can make it fully back from injury, he has the skills to become a strong #2 receiver–he is physical, has some size, good hands and decent speed. He may not be “the answer” , but he can be part of the answer in 2017 and beyond.

  19. By Adam Smith b1723 fka DTL on Dec 27, 2016 | Reply

    Divisional record:

    Cards best, will end with best intra-division record with win Sunday. “Consolation prize” matters: 2017 and who will be in charge…

  20. By JohnnyBluenose on Dec 27, 2016 | Reply

    There has been much speculation concerning LarryFitz’s future with the Cardinals. Naturally so. He is a HallofFamer on and off the field and none of us would ever want to see him playing elsewhere. He could probably play another three or four years if he wanted to but the reality is he is no longer a game changer, at least not the way Arians is using him. Yes, Fitz has had another 100 receptions season and no doubt he will eclipse 1000 yards after one more game but he has not contributed much lately. In the last six games he has 34 receptions for a total of 294 yards. That’s not a lot, especially considering Carson Palmer has played very well during that stretch. I’m not sure what the answers are to improving our receiving corps. There are so many question marks, including Fitz. Is his contribution going forward really worth the ten or so million dollars he will receive or could it be put to better use elsewhere? Time will tell but I look around the league and I see a lot of young, speedy, dynamic receivers making big plays DOWN THE FIELD, not three yards from the line of scrimmage, and I have to think they would make a bigger contribution to our team now than Larry.

  21. By William Toler on Dec 27, 2016 | Reply

    Darren: With all the problems at wide receiver, why wouldn’t they bring up Chris Hubert and see what he can do? I was really hoping to see him play this year. He looked like he was tearing it up in training camp and preseason.

  22. By Darren Urban on Dec 27, 2016 | Reply

    William —

    RE: Hubert

    They see Hubert every day at practice. They have an idea of what he can do.

  23. By Wild Blue Yonder on Dec 27, 2016 | Reply

    Keim has to go.
    It will be obvious after the FA period and the draft.
    As I wrote earlier, if Michael doesn’t fire him after missing the playoffs again in 2017, SURELY he’ll fire him after the 2018 season.

    In the category of “I told you so”, I refer back to my post after about the first six games when I wrote (paraphrasing) ” the Cards will finish 7-9″. Well, how would I have known that they would let the ‘Hawks’ tie them?

  24. By Scott H on Dec 27, 2016 | Reply

    JTDG –

    OK, first, you know how I hate it when people use the T-word ( = Ted Ginn )! But I’ll forgive that for the point you are making. Just mind your P’s and Q’s going forward! 🙂

    Yeah, Nelson is becoming a big play guy, no doubt. But do you see him being able to sustain that without Fitz around, commanding so much of the defenses’ attention?? Fitz’ presence on the field helps EVERYONE, including Palmer. That is still true after all these years. We were all hoping Floyd was going to take over as the alpha dog. Didn’t happen. Nelson would need another dominant presence at WR ( aka, a player we don’t currently have without Fitz ) to allow him to continue making the big plays.

    PS – just a reminder, I also hate the D-word ( Derek Anderson ). Must be something about guys who come here, suck the life out of us, then go to the Panthers and play much better.

  25. By William Toler on Dec 27, 2016 | Reply


    They saw what Floyd could do everyday and he was horrible this year. Long time Cards fan here but starting to question how well they access talent.

  26. By Darren Urban on Dec 28, 2016 | Reply

    William —

    RE: Floyd

    Time out. Yes, Floyd was bad this season. But he had a track record that was pretty good — or does that not count?

    So are you saying Hubert should have been playing over Floyd? Or should have had that chance at least? Because if so — stop. Just stop.

  27. By JTDG on Dec 27, 2016 | Reply

    Scott H and JohnnyBlueNose;

    Johnny is right that Fitz isn’t the receiver he use to be. He doesn’t get the separation he use to and most his routes are less than 10 yards. All that is true.

    But Larry does demand respect when he steps on the field. He can beat teams if they don’t pay attention to him.

    I think his and DJ’s (frankly more of DJs) success has teams figuring out ways to take that away. Then you add JJs speed, it is tough to manage for a defense.

    But lets face it, that true number 1 is missing from this team. Floyd never developed into that guy unfortunately. If the cards grabbed a “Mike Williams” or “JuJu Smith” in the draft, they would have that guy who could develop into that number 1 guy, but in 2017, give Palmer that extra weapon so needed.

    Lets say John Brown comes back and Jaron Brown takes that next step, 2018 sure would look good with Nelson, The Browns, and Williams/Smith. (yes, I know Jaron is a FA in 2018, but resigning him if he produces to play that slot would be important when Larry leaves)

    As for JJ able sustain his success without Fitz, the answer is no. He is one of those Fantasy football nightmares, huge week one week, down the next. His success will depend on DJ running the ball and catching out of the backfield and another receiver getting the attention.

    Now a 2015 John Brown and JJ out there, with Fitz underneath and DJ doing his thing could be deadly. I just don’t think you can count on John.

  28. By Big Ken on Dec 28, 2016 | Reply

    I’d like to see at least two new WR’s on the team next year. Guys that are difference makers. I don’t see any top level QB’s in the draft but I think there are some good developmental guys. It will be interesting to see if they pick a QB in the draft.

  29. By William Toler on Dec 29, 2016 | Reply

    Time out, stop? Who do you think you are? All I said was the guy should have been given a chance since their receivers played so bad this year. You need to get over yourself.

  30. By Darren Urban on Dec 29, 2016 | Reply

    William —

    RE: Get over yourself

    I’m good, thanks.

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