Sometimes, it’s best to go straight to the man in charge.
And when it comes to the Arizona Cardinals’ roster, that man is Steve Keim.
Arizona’s general manager since January 2013, Keim has overseen a transformation that led to 21 wins over two seasons. His deft touch with the draft and free agency has led to the team becoming a contender in the NFC.
Lucky for us, Keim happens to be a weekly guest on the Doug and Wolf Show, right here on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. And since what he has to say is important, we thought it would be a good idea to put his words into print, allowing you to read what the GM is thinking. So, without further ado, here’s this week’s edition, which follows Arizona’s season-opening 31-19 win over the New Orleans Saints:
Are there any General Manager traditions? Like when you get a hole-in-one you’ve gotta buy drinks, stuff like that. When a rookie scores a touchdown in his very first game, do you have to send a bottle of wine to Northern Iowa? Do other GMs send you something? What’s the tradition on that?
No, just excited to get the win. It’s funny, I asked David on Wednesday in practice if he was scared. And if he was scared I told him I’d get him a dog, but I talked to him in the locker room again last night and I think we all realize now he’s not scared. It was good to see him have some success.
Overall I just finished up with the tape and just like I had talked about in the previous couple shows we had, really excited about some of the offensive playmakers, the explosiveness that we had on offense. I know there were some concerns with our offensive line in the preseason, I thought we would get that smoothed out, and I thought those guys actually as a whole played excellent up front after watching the tape this morning.
Yet at the same time there were some concerns. You know the Saints had two explosive plays off of two mental mistakes we had with our outside linebackers where we didn’t peel in the passing game and come off and cover the backs. There were obviously some substitution issues which created a seven-point swing on the punt return deal that set-up a touchdown return for them which is really unacceptable. And then we were out-leveraged a few times on some screens, but for the most part our guys played hard, they played fast, they played aggressive and it was nice to come away with the win.
What pleased you the most overall after watching the film?
Probably the way that Earl Watford played. Earl maybe gave up a few pass rushes to Cameron Jordan who’s a good player, but for the most part I would’ve said Earl played a very very good game. Really strong at the point of attack, created some movement in the run game. I thought that Jonathan Cooper and Jared Veldheer played excellent – not good – excellent, I mean those guys were really, really good. Coop got out in space a couple times on some pulls and had some nice blocks for Chris and Andre to pick up big yardage. It was nice to late in the game be able to run the football with some effectiveness.
Carson Palmer is 14-2 in his last 16 games as the Cardinals starter. Why?
Because he’s a really good player that has a great understanding of this offense and more than anything, when you give Carson Palmer time and protect him, he can spin the rock as good as any of them in terms of ball placement, touch, accuracy. At home, our fan base does such a great job creating a home atmosphere and a tough place to play for other teams that it’s just a great combination. We have a head coach that’s not scared to go for the jugular, we have great fans and we have a competitive team who plays at a high level at home.
On the David Johnson touchdown, were you surprised that BA did not run the ball?
No, not at all. What’s he say? It’s no risk it, no biscuit. But I will say this, when David caught the ball you just questioned what he was going to do with it after he caught it, and I think everybody realizes now that at 226 lbs., he did run low 4.4s coming out of Northern Iowa at the combine, which is why we were so excited about him.
Steve, what’s the latest on Andre Ellington? What do you know?
He’ll have an MRI this morning. At some point I’ll talk with Tom Reed and our medical staff. It’s interesting. Last night after the game he told me he felt pretty good, so we’re optimistic. But again we’ll wait until the MRI this morning and see if it reveals any additional injury information. That’s why you always have to protect yourself in this game which is exactly why we signed Chris Johnson, exactly why we signed David Johnson, and really feel good about both of those guys moving forward.
What about Michael Floyd?
I think it was a combination of coach probably didn’t want to overdo it yet at the same time get him a taste of real live football. Again, he missed the majority of training camp with that injury and it’s a testament to him that he was even out there on the field. I think that each game, each practice, each day, he’ll get additional snaps. I think some of it really had to do with the game plan and some of the packages we ran on offense.
Steve, you had mentioned that you were a little troubled by some of the screen game, but overall evaluate the performance in the first regular season game by your defensive coordinator.
Very good. Bettch has great understanding of what he’s trying to do. He’s aggressive, he’s not scared to dial up the blitz. I think he likes some of the personnel packages that he has on defense. Listen, it’s no secret that Sean Payton is an excellent play caller and Drew Brees does an excellent job of running that offense with a great deal of tempo and understanding and smarts. I think for a rookie defensive coordinator he did an excellent job. I think as a whole our defensive line stood out as a group. They played really really good. Rodney Gunter got his first start, played very good. Frostee [Rucker], Calais [Campbell] those guys were really active up front and can’t say enough about Alex Okafor with two sacks.
Could a team have a better characteristic than being able to win close games in the fourth quarter?
When you have a locker room full of guys who are committed to one thing and one goal in mind, when you face adversity – which again, every game you’re going to have some kind of adversity – the guys who have the real character, the intangibles in the locker room, those are the type of teams that bounce back and answer the bell. It’s when you have those guys in the locker room that aren’t great intangible players and aren’t great character guys that things can go south quickly.
When healthy, Dave Zastudil did a lot of good things for this team, you made the decision that this is the time for Drew Butler. I know punting is kind of a boring subject but that was a huge punt to pin Drew Brees up against his own end zone.
No doubt. I think Drew (Butler) would tell you he’d like to have one of those punts back. I know he had one earlier in the game that wasn’t so great but I think he responded really well and that punt to pin him at – I think it was the two yard line – you couldn’t have asked for a better placement.
If you had to give out a game ball, just one, is there a guy that you would give it to? Do you know who that would be?
It would be a really hard decision between Jonathan Cooper and Earl Watford. Earl because he stepped up and answered the bell and again when you watch the game on tape Wolf, you’d be really proud of the way Earl played. But Jonathan Cooper a guy who is, talk about bouncing back from adversity – being a first round pick, people getting down on him being frustrated with the fact that he’s not back and healthy – and then to be able to start his real, really his first NFL football game, and to play at the level he played. To be able to pull and play in space, some of the stuff he did in combination climbing to the second level. Really a couple times, on the one touchdown in the first quarter to John Brown, he peeled back and gave Carson the opportunity to make that throw. I couldn’t be more proud of Coop because he’s been through a lot.
When I say 34-31 Rams over Seahawks in overtime, what do you think about? What comes to your mind about that game?
That the Rams probably have a quarterback that can at least do some things and really propel that offense because we always knew what they could do defensively, but they just needed a few different pieces of the puzzle on offense to really challenge and it sounds and looks like they finally have their guy. There is no question when you look at the division from top to bottom with the Seahawks and the Rams, and you never want to count out San Francisco, we’ll certainly have our hands full.