Keim Time: Cardinals see progress in run game, O-line during win vs. 49ers
A 20-10 road win over the 0-9 San Francisco 49ers didn’t have the Arizona Cardinals screaming for attention as NFC West contenders, but the Week 9 performance was at least stabilizing for a team that has lost two of its key offensive players for the foreseeable future.
So what’d general manager Steve Keim think about it?
Keim joins Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station every Monday morning during the season. After a record-setting day for running back Adrian Peterson and a win in backup quarterback Drew Stanton’s first full game replacing the injured Carson Palmer, Keim reviewed the improvements he saw as the Cardinals look ahead to a Thursday meeting with the Seattle Seahawks.
It’s Keim Time.
Steve, good morning. Congratulations on the win. How are you?
Good morning. Always good to get a taste of a loss out of your mouth, especially when you have to go into a bye week. It takes time to marinate. Hopefully a lot of our players had taken that time to rest and relax and recover. It seemed like we played with some energy yesterday and did some good things.
As a guy that played 10 years in the National Football League, I have seen many backup quarterbacks step into a huddle, and you could see the terror on their face. Talk a little bit about Drew Stanton being 7-3 as a starter in this organization.
I think it just starts with the fact that he’s a pro. So many things, necessary skills, to play that position are really under-looked. Not only just the ability to regurgitate the play in the huddle, to be able to make the checks and the line calls, to be able to identify the defense, to be able to put you in the right play. All that pre-snap stuff is one thing.
Once the ball is snapped and the bullets are flying, to be able to make the right reads and to confidently place the ball in the right area. And Drew’s done a nice job. Not many backups in the league I think can put you in that position. There’s no doubt that we knew that we had to run the football effectively, and I don’t think that’s a secret moving forward this season. We were able to create some balance yesterday, just like we did in Tampa. When we play with balance, good things happen.
What impressed you the most when you looked at the film?
Probably the ability to create a run game and do it consistently. I thought that Alex Boone and D.J. Humphries did an excellent job with the double teams and creating movement in the line, giving Adrian a chance to use his eyes and physicality between the tackles. The guy continues to impress me at his age with his footspeed, acceleration, his abilty to finish runs. Thirty-seven carries is unheard of. I think that’s the most in his career.
Like (offensive coordinator) Harold Goodwin said earlier in the week, the more you feed him, the better he gets.
What’d you see that’s gotta get cleaned up?
There’s a lot of things. (It) starts with, you got to score in the red zone when we’re down there, so there continues to be red-zone issues. Field goal unit to me is a major disappointment, not only from a kicking standpoint, but for blocking and technical standpoint. There’s some things that really need to be cleaned up. The pass protection I thought was solid — we didn’t give up a sack, there were a few hits.
Defensively, you know, I just think we need to play with more consistency. Consistently become better tacklers, and then whenever it’s third down conversions, get off the field where we’re not giving up seam routes and some of those easy throws. Continue to challenge receivers and get off the field.
Hate to bring up a negative, but again, you did allude to it here. Phil Dawson again another missed field goal under 40 yards. How many of those missed field goals under 40 yards do you lay at the feet of Phil Dawson?
Well, I mean, he’s got to be held accountable for it. It was a low snap. I don’t know the technicalities of the field goal position as well as the specialists themselves, but in my opinion, when you’re getting paid, you got to make those kicks. I don’t think that’s any secret.
Again, a low snap: I thought (holder) Andy Lee got it up. I know there is some timing and some rhythm issues, but that’s something we have to look at and get fixed here very quickly.
Is it one of those things where, are you bringing in a kicker this week or does the Thursday game kind of mess with that and you’ll worry about it next week?
That certainly messes with it, the short period of time. Turnover is going to be an issue. The hard part is, the preseason and everything we saw out of Phil moving forward felt like he was going to be a huge addition to this team and bring consistency to that spot. For whatever reason, things aren’t clicking right now.
We just have to go back to the basics and really dig in and see what’s going wrong and see if we can fix it. Again, it cannot happen again.
You brought back Karlos Dansby of course — Karlos’ third stint with the organization — and he got number 20. He’s part of the 40-20 club. Forty sacks, 20 picks. There are five guys in the history of the National Football League that have done that. Talk about Karlos Dansby and the impact he’s made on this defense.
Just being with Karlos several times here over the years, you knew his leadership was infectious. He’s a great locker room guy. He’s extremely intelligent, great getting our defense lined up. Forty sacks and 20 interceptions, what a tremendous accomplishment, there’s no doubt about it. Really does, to me, cap off a great career he’s already had.
Now, I will say this: After the game, B.A. gave him an opportunity to give a speech, and he may be one of the worst speech-givers I’ve ever heard.
Do you feel like after watching the film of the last couple weeks … how do you feel about the O-line coming together with a little more stability in the actual personnel?
Slowly but surely, it’s starting to improve. Again, we have to help them. I don’t think there’s any offensive lineman in the NFL that’s equipped to pass-protect every snap. Defenses tee off and there are talented rushers on most teams. You just can’t win like that. We have to stay committed to the run, create that balance and give those guys a chance. Once we’re able to establish a little bit of the run game, it really diminishes our pass protection problems.
I think that as a group they’re starting to gel, they’re playing better. They have an awfully tough task this Thursday. We know Seattle’s defensive front is one of the better (ones) in the league. Again, if we can stay committed to the run, we can get some positive yards on the ground. There’s not doubt in my mind we can create balance and have some success.
It seems to me just watching him over the last year and a half, D.J. Humphries might be the most improved guy on the football team right now. Have you found your cornerstone tackle?
I think so. I think the one thing about him is, when we drafted him, we knew he was a very good talent that possessed all the left tackle traits with the feet, the length, the athleticism. Unfortunately, when we drafted him he was 20, 21 years old and a third-year junior, and he was naive and immature. So once we got him in our system, worked with him for a year — we redshirted him so-to-speak — (he) grew up a lot and has really matured. The one thing about him that you like is he’s ultra-competitive and he likes playing the game.
The one thing that he brings to the table is a physicality in the run game that we had not had. His natural ability to bend his knees and his hips, and to roll in the run game and create movement at the point, he is very, very explosive through his hips — which again is very hard to find in left tackles. Usually those guys are finesse guys who are better on their feet in pass protection. He’s got the ability to be both. He’s just got to continue to keep working his technique, his footwork, his sets, his hand placement, and I think he’s going to be a fine player for many years to come.
How do you feel about Thursday Night Football?
I mean, it’s certainly a challenge. But listen, anytime we’re able to play on national television in front of our home crowd, that’s exciting to me. But it is: It’s a challenge to get them ready. It’s a little more mental preparation than it is physical preparation throughout the week. Then on the other hand, you get a little mini-bye on the backend. It gives you time to rest and recover for the next game, where we’ll travel to Houston.
You have a chance to get a guy healthy, or two, if there are any injuries that you incur. It’s exciting, again. Any time you can play on national television on primetime … and our guys usually play well at home under a very energetic crowd at University of Phoenix Stadium. I’m excited.
I know you know a lot of people inside the San Francisco 49ers organization, high up so-to-speak. Do you sense a culture shift with that football team going forward?
I think so. I think the one thing: even though they are, what? Now 0-9. I think that, number one, they play extremely hard. And number two, I have a lot of respect for Coach (Kyle) Shanahan. I think he does a lot of phenomenal things from a pre-snap standpoint, whether it’s his motions and adjustments that try to create mismatches. Nobody I respect more than John Lynch, their general manager who’s a friend of mine and a guy who just gets it. He’s a good football guy. He’s played the game and he just has a great temperament about him. I think moving forward they’ll have some success and they have the right guys in position to take them there.
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