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GM Steve Keim: Cardinals evaluating leadership as season nears end

Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Deone Bucannon (20) forces New York Giants wide receiver Roger Lewis (18) to fumble during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals recovered the football. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
LISTEN: Steve Keim, Cardinals GM

Even before the Arizona Cardinals were officially eliminated from the playoff picture against the Washington Redskins in Week 15, the season’s results had changed perspective for general manager Steve Keim.

The evaluation of his roster wasn’t only about the young players stepping in for injured veterans and their on-field production — it became an easy way to evaluate the locker room mood for a team with little to play for.

On a defensive unit that earned a 23-0 shutout win against the New York Giants on Sunday, the Cardinals have so far proved their sense of urgency wasn’t lost with the lack of a playoff appearance.

“We’ve dealt with enough adversity this year with the injuries, with some of the losses,” Keim told Doug & Wolf Tuesday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “So we just have to make sure, again, we use this season and in particular our issues that we’ve dealt with as learning things where we can look back and we grow from it, instead of having the attitude of ‘woe is me.’

“That’s something I’ve believe in wholeheartedly not only in a scouting side of it but hopefully as an organization in general; just where we can look back and again find out where we missed, where we made mistakes and how we can put our best foot forward and improve.”

Several veterans, especially on defense, have made it clear they’re not mailing it in.

Defensive tackle Frostee Rucker and linebacker Karlos Dansby both earned Keim’s praise following the win over the Giants. Safety Antoine Bethea, who recorded two interceptions and nearly added another against the Giants, also grabbed the general manager’s attention beyond his on-field production this year.

Keim added that $LB Deone Bucannon, who has picked up his play after an offseason ankle injury, arguably played his best game as a pro.

Offensively, the scouting process hasn’t been as easy.

Losing running back David Johnson, quarterback Carson Palmer, swapping backups Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton, and dealing with the offensive line turn-style hasn’t made it easy, “but at the end of the day, there are still one-on-one battles these guys have to win,” Keim said.

The general manager pointed out that any sweeping changes won’t be limited to free agents. Players under contract also better be showing well in the locker room and on the field over the tail end of the season, which wraps on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

“Without a playoff berth to play for, sometimes in this business sometimes you question what the urgency is. That’s what I’m extremely proud of is our guys came out in front of our home crowd and stepped up and answered the bell,” the GM said of the win over New York.

“We just got to make sure we make good, sound decisions (in the offseason). Really, it starts with the mental preparation and the urgency and the attitude that you play with.”

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