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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14 Responses to “Keim: The unseen factors in the cut to 53”

  1. By Jametruis Judge on Sep 5, 2017 | Reply

    I truly do believe that letting go of Chris Johnson was a mistake. That was your veteran in the RB room. Elijah Penny is going to be a bust. Special teams, come on . You could have found someone else for that. David Johnson is a combination of speed and power. So why keep Penny for that? Watch how we’re going to be looking for another running back later in the season.

  2. By D on Sep 5, 2017 | Reply

    Not that my opinion matters much but I don’ t believe Mr. Keim has done enough to add to the roster to compete with Seattle within the division. He has the Cap space to add available players today that could help this team win more in 2017.

    I do like the addition of Andy Lee and Dawson, so their Teams should be better.

    But I believe his Off Line is the weakness of this team and we all know that keeping Palmer upright and healthy is the only way this team has a chance. I also see one or two WR’s that are available today that could help this fragile group.
    My only hope is that he is waiting to next Monday to add a Veteran so the salary isn’t guaranteed for the season. If we are a month into the season with his current available Cap Space, then he better be working on an extension for either Dbuc, Golden or Johnson.

  3. By Darren Urban on Sep 5, 2017 | Reply

    D —

    RE: Extensions

    Golden and David Johnson aren’t eligible for extensions until after the regular season.

  4. By cardcor on Sep 5, 2017 | Reply

    Anybody that is playing in the last preseason game is on the bubble. The LAST thing CJ needed to demonstrate in that game was a propensity to fumble.

    The veteran in the RB room is Andre Ellington. He’s 28 and been in the league 5 years. He also is a great receiving option out of the backfield.

    Penny was not kept for “speed and power”. IMO, he’s a short yardage specialist. Gotta get a yard when the D is stackin’ the box? Penny is a good option then.

  5. By Scott H on Sep 5, 2017 | Reply

    I like the sound of the confidence in the CB room. But let’s see what happens when the games start.

    Like D, I share a general feeling that Seattle is going to be beyond us this year. Russel Wilson looked SUPER sharp during the pre-season ( NOT a good sign for ANYONE in the NFC ) and that trade for Richardson just as we were preparing to see what cuts teams were going to be making…..that was a killer. That defense might be as good as it has ever been this year. I’ve heard it said that Richardson was a bit of a problem last year in the Jets locker room but you can believe that with a coach like Pete Carroll and the guys they have in THAT locker room, no such non-sense will be tolerated from him this year.

    Hope I’m wrong, but…..we’ll see.

  6. By mitchaz on Sep 5, 2017 | Reply

    Cap’n Crunch Keim: Genius or Scapegoat? (A Recap of Steve Keim’s Off-Season Moves)

    Ah, the early days of September…pre-season football has finally come to an end and parents and kids are putting the finishing touches on their back to school shopping.

    For Cardinals’ GM Steve Keim, his back to school shopping began as far back as Monday December 19th, the day after an alarming 48-41 home loss to the Saints when Keim alerted the players that they would be playing for their jobs over last two weeks,

    Keim’s edict had an immediate impact, as the sluggish Cardinals suddenly came out like gangbusters at Seattle and at Los Angeles. Carson Palmer looked like a new man, despite playing behind a makeshift offensive line that was missing Humphries, Iupati, Mathis and Veldheer. Playing versus two of the most talent front 7’s in the NFL that makeshift line did more than hold their own. The defense was suddenly sack happy and breaking up passes that earlier would have been easy, wide-open catches. The Cardinals even made a kick from the Cat Man to win a game!

    In assessing the two sweet wins at the end of the year, Keim drew the following conclusions:

    1. Evan Boehm could be the 2017 starter at RG.
    2. A healthy Justin Bethel (with a pay cut) and a one year older Brandon Williams were capable enough to battle for the starting CB position opposite Patrick Peterson.
    3. T/G John Wetzel could take over as the T/G swing 6th man role that was occupied by Earl Watford.
    4. A healthy Tyrann Mathieu and healthy Tyvon Branch (with a pay cut) could be the 2017 safety starters in place of UFAs Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger.
    5. DT/DE Josh Mauro could start at RDE in the place of UFA DT/DE Calais Campbell.
    6. OLB/DE Chandler Jones was worthy of a 5 year $82M contract with a whopping $51M in guaranteed money.
    7. RB Kerwynn Williams was deserving of being the #2 RB behind David Johnson.

    Moreover, during this two game stretch, Keim decided it was time to move on from DE Calais Campbell, SS Tony Jefferson, FS D.J. Swearinger, CB Marcus Cooper, K Chandler Catanzaro, TE Darren Fells, CB Mike Jenkins, LB Kevin Minter, LB Sio Moore, LB Alex Okafor, RB Stepfan Taylor and G Earl Watford.

    The most precarious aspect of Keim’s decisions was to move on from three of the team’s most productive tacklers and defensive playmakers in Campbell, Jefferson and Swearinger who combined for 215 tackles, 12 sacks and 4 forced fumbles.

    But this is where Steve Keim deserves the nickname “Cap’n Crunch.” He and his director of football administration, Mike Disner, are number crunchers extraordinaire. For right or for wrong, they quickly and very accurately determined that the Cardinals’ UFAs Campbell, Jeffersonm Swearinger, Cooper and Minter would be offered contracts well above what Keim and Disner considered to be their fair market value.

    With a mass exodus of free agents heading out of the door and with all kinds of potential cap space opening up, many of the fans and pundits expected Keim to make two or three splash signings in free agency.

    Not Keim. No sir, not Cap’n Crunch.

    Instead, he was like the guy who orders chicken parm every time he dines out — Keim went with what he considered to be the sure thing, at near discount prices.
    Enter veteran S Antoine Bethea who wanted out of SF and who had previously developed a rapport with BA in Indy, veteran Cardinals alum LB Karlos Dansby who could provide some much needed locker room energy and playmaking ability, and venerable veteran PK Phil Dawson who was pleased as punch to play for a contender that just so happened to be near his Texas hone.

    As the days of free agency elapsed and Keim was sitting on his poker hand, many fans and pundits wondered what was going on. But, as more and more of the Cardinals UFAs signed elsewhere, it became clear that Keim viewed this off-season as an opportunity to accumulate compensatory picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. It appears that the Cardinals will be awarded a 3rd, 4th and 2 6th round picks.

    For depth purposes Keim signed OLB Jarvis Jones, G/C Tony Bergstrom and CB Jumal Rolle to deals near are at the veteran minimum.

    In the 2017 NFL Draft, Keim had his eye on a couple of the top QBs and at one point made an offer to trade up from the 13 spot…but he couldn’t make the trade work and thus wound up missing on what appeared to be his top choice: Patrick Mahomes.

    Again, with the draft Keim kept an eye on the future by drafting depth and potential starters at positions where the Cardinals might be needy next year or the following due to free agency or key contract decisions: LB Deone Bucannon (Haason Reddick); Ss Tyrann Mathieu (Budda Baker), WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Jaron Brown, and John Brown (Chad Williams), G Mike Iupati (Dorian Johnson), T Jared Veldheer (Will Holden), RBs Kerwynn Williams and Andre Ellington (T.J. Logan) and S Tyvon Branch (Rudy Ford).

    Following the draft and having missed out on drafting a QB, Keim signed UFA QB Blaine Gabbert to one of Keim’s patented one-year-prove-it deals. He then signed CB Tramon Williams amd LBs Philip Wheeler and Josh Bynes to similarly inexpensive prove it deals. At BA’s urging, Keim brought back veteran RB Chris Johnson.

    This week Keim added veteran 3 time All-Pro punter Andy Lee to pair up with Lee’s old-time SF buddy Phil Dawson (for this year and next).

    The question is: has Keim’s very conservative and frugal approach to free agency this off-season been enough to make the Cardinals a legitimate Super Bowl contender this season?

    As a team, the Cardinals have had a solid camp. BA has done a very good job of trying to keep the veterans (oldest roster in the NFL) and key players fresh, while making camp more rigorous and physical. In the pre-season games, the Cardinals looked like last year’s 7-8-1 team at home versus the Bears and looked like the 13-3 2015 team on the road versus the Falcons. But these are pre-season games. So, who knows?

    The Offense:

    • QB Carson Palmer looks rejuvenated and the QB room in general was energized by the addition of Blaine Gabbert who might not be the #2, but could he secretly be the #1B.
    • RB David Johnson has been kept as fresh as possible so that can pursue his personal goal of 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving. Per Keim’s vision, Kerwynn Williams is the #2 and is taking over the kickoff and punt return duties until T.J. Logan returns from the IR.
    • WR Larry Fitzgerald is now free to come out of pre-season moth balls. He should be fresh. There rest of the unit had an up and down pre-season, health and production-wise.
    • TE Jermaine Gresham is the bell cow and now a $24M one, joined by Troy Niklas and Ifeanyi Momah both of whom appear healthy, knock on wood.
    • The OL has question marks regarding the flipping of tackles Humphries and Veldheer and the development of their chemistry with G’s Iupati and Boehm respectively. C A.Q. Shipley is as eager as ever, but he looks like he is struggling to hold up physically. John Wetzel is the all-purpose 6th man that Keim envisioned. But enter surprise roster addition C Daniel Munyer, who will now assume the backup C role.
    Much depends on how quickly the offensive line can gel. And whether playmakers like John Brown, J.J. Nelson and Jermaine Gresham can take advantage of defenses loading up to stop David Johnson and doing their best to contain Fitzgerald. Teams are going to run blitz Johnson and try to pressure Palmer relentlessly.

    The Defense:

    • The DL minus Calais Campbell this pre-season was mediocre at best, especially after emerging playmaker Robert Nkemdiche injured his ankle. The hope is that Mauro can stop the run and Pierre can rush the passer, while Rucker, Peters and Gunter can make their fair share of contributions.
    • The ILB situation is iffy at the moment with Deone Bucannon trying to make it back to the lineup asap and Karlos Dansby being hampered by injuries. Rookie Haason Reddick flashes excellent athleticism as a chase, blitz and cover ILB, but has yet to establish himself as a reliable or instinctive tackler. Bynes and Wheeler are coming off mediocre pre-season performances.
    • The OLB unit looks especially good if Reddick adds depth to Golden, Jones and Martin.
    • The CB situation is just as Keim prescribed it, with Peterson and Bethel as the starters and Brandon Williams and Tramon Williams as the backups. Thus far Bethel has looked the part, but can he prove it in the games?
    • There is depth and versatility at S with Mathieu, Branch, Bethea, Baker and Ford. The biggest question mark is whether Branch can be effective at FS, both storming the alleys to take down runners and in offering rangy deep help in coverage. Like Bethel, in pre-season, Branch looked the part.

    So much of the defense’s success will be dictated to the play of the front seven. Do the Cardinals have a legitimate 4 man pass rush? Yes, on the edges, but up the middle? Will teams continue to be able to exploit the CB opposite Peterson? How badly will the defense miss Calais Campbell, particularly in stopping the run? Will the tackling improve? That’s a big if. Shoddy tackling has been an on-going issue with the defense, as has a plethora of missed coverage assignments.

    Special Teams:

    • The kicking game now features two well-tested grizzly veterans in Dawson and Lee, who can make the difference in close games.
    • LS Gabe Brewer has been solid since his signing last October.
    • Amos Jones has to figure out what players to fill the roles of the likes of Hakeem Valles, Zaviar Gooden, Scooby Wright, Jeremy Ross, Gerald Christian, Ironhead Gallon and Tre’Von Johnson who were the mainstays on STs throughout the pre-season.

    This is a big year for Amos Jones. If the STs mishaps continue, not only will this confirm what pundits and fans have been fearing, but it will come back to haunt Bruce Arians, who has gone as far as calling Jones a “brilliant coach.” Having Phil Dawson’s leadership as ST’s captain should be a plus.

    Steve Keim said on Doug and Wolf this morning that he is confident that the roster is solid and that the locker room is solid and that “now it’s time to win games.” Now we will begin to see if Keim’s ultra-conservative “Cap’n Crunch” approach to this off-season was a stroke of genius or a questionable series of miscalculations.

  7. By Joe Cardea on Sep 5, 2017 | Reply

    Alex Boone has been signed. That’s 10 o-linemen. Good pick up. I wouldn’t buy a house if I was a o-lineman!

  8. By D on Sep 5, 2017 | Reply

    Alex Boone signed…nice job Mr. Keim!!!

  9. By D on Sep 5, 2017 | Reply

    Darren-is it unfair for fans to expect/almost demand a “Keim Time Sign” every year leading up to the start of the new season?

    The differences between the current GM to the prior GM is 180 degrees.

  10. By mitchaz on Sep 5, 2017 | Reply

    The Alex Boone signing could be a game changer for the Cardinals. Pairing him with Mike Iupati at guard could allow the coaches to slide Evan Boehm back to center, or stick with A.Q. Shipley for now or go with Daniel Munyer. Man, what a great job by Steve Keim. Plus, so glad the Seahawks or Rams didn’t get him.

    Steve Keim said a very interesting number of things about Munyer today on Doug and Wolf — he praised Munyer’s quickness and his ability to get to the 2nd level and to take out blitzers — the very skills that Shipley lacks. Maybe Munyer takes over at center with Iupati and Boone to each side? Or maybe Boehm? The potential to be a very good offensive line just got brighter.

  11. By Scott H on Sep 5, 2017 | Reply

    I do like the Alex Boone signing. Seems a solid addition to a unit where no team can have enough depth and in the case of THIS team….well, he seems likely to provide more than just depth.

    Solid additions in Lee and Boone and hopefully, they will truly up-grade at their respective positions.

    I’m trying to move on from any more ranting about the CB position. We have what we have, the organization seems comfortable with what they have…..done.

    Um…..I don’t suppose there might be a return guy out there that could be added as well….could there??

  12. By Coach K on Sep 5, 2017 | Reply

    Darren, I agree with Jametrius above

    And I will say this one last time.

    Cutting CJ2K was a HUGE MISTAKE and keeping Penny was equally a MISTAKE.

    I hope I’m wrong. . But I’m not.

    I can only pray David stays healthy.

  13. By JR on Sep 5, 2017 | Reply

    I guess the signing of Lee is a good thing, but I don’t like the fact that they let Matt Wile and Rich Leone compete for the job the whole preseason, they award the job to Wile, and then he is gone in a heartbeat for Lee. That doesn’t sit well with me. What a waste of their time trying out with the Cards.

  14. By Scott H on Sep 6, 2017 | Reply

    JR –

    I hear ya. But you may be a better person than I am. Because while you are considering how this was a waste of time for the punters, I was thinking why the hell do we continue looking at these two guys when neither one of them seemed like they were performing all that well?? Why are we not DOING something, like bringing in someone else to compete at this position? Sure enough, and pretty quickly, our punter is neither of the guys we had in camp all summer.

    Seemed like a repeat of the recent camp where we went all the way through camp and pre-season with those two young QB’s ( behind Palmer and Stanton, of course ) only to cut both of THEM so we could trade for Matt Barkley.

    Only THIS time, I think they actually did the right thing!

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