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 has led to 23 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 following Arizonas 48-23 win against the Chicago Bears.
David Johnson, tell us the story. Why’d you pick him?
Well it certainly beats you guys asking about all the guys we missed on. The combination of size, speed explosiveness was something we were really attracted to. I think when we looked at his style, his run style, his movement skills, we felt like there were some similarities to the guy we played yesterday — Matt Forte. His ability to return kicks. He’s so deceptive. When you see the guy get on the perimeter, the way his stride is and his size and his upright running style, you don’t realize he’s moving that fast. All of a sudden, he’s eating up angles in an instant.
Steve you lost like 40 pounds now, how’d it go in Chicago?
I crushed a deep dish. No doubt about it.
Through two games, what are your takeaways? Where does your mind go based on how your team has played?
“More than anything, we got a chance to be a pretty good football team if we eliminate the mistakes. That’s the self-inflicted wounds that have happened the last two games. Yesterday, you look at some of the things that went on. A blown coverage for a touchdown, a dropped punt, an interception in a two-minute situation. Luckily, those two — the punt return and the interception — only led to six points. At the same time, those are the things that can come back and haunt you later in the year. We just got to clean up the little things and I think we have a chance to be a special team.
What happened on the blown coverage?
I think there was a miscommunication with Pat (Peterson) and J.P., Jerraud Powers, But again, just watching the tape, I know we were in a man situation but I don’t know what those guys had talked about.
I think the offensive line through the first two games has been a little bit surprising, just knowing of course Mike Iupati is not there. That’s no attack on Ted Larsen. And Lyle Sendlein getting his first two starts of the season at center, Earl Watford over there at right tackle. How has the offensive line performed in your estimation when you evaluate them?
I think they’ve done a nice job, I think they’ve answered the bell. A couple guys have stepped up, (Jonathan Cooper) coming back from injury has done a nice job, Earl has played well and I think Ted Larsen has stepped up his game. And then it’s nice, I think Mike Iupati might be ready to play this week, Bobby Massie is back from suspension. We’ll have some options and it’s nice to have that kind of depth moving forward.
As it stands right now with San Francisco coming to town, is Earl Watford the starting right tackle?
Coach (Bruce Arians), myself and (offensive coordinator) Harold Goodwin will have a discussion sometime today about that. But I know this: Earl has earned the right to be on the field. He’s done a nice job. The one thing I think he’s excelled at is the run game. He really does have snap and explosiveness through his hips as a player where he can create movement in the run game. He does a nice job on the second level. So we’ll have that discussion and see what the coaches think. A lot of times in those scenarios, I defer to the coaches when it comes to the lineup.
Steve, are you happy with the rushing attack, overall, as a general manager?
I think there’s no question that it’s improved. Those guys up front have done a nice job of coming off the ball. I give our tight ends some credit, too. Jermaine Gresham has been an excellent addition as an inline blocker. Darren Fells continues to do some nice things. You can’t take away some of the little things our backs have done. Chris Johnson made some nice plays, he’s got a great, patient running style. And of course you can’t say enough things about David (Johnson), the explosiveness and the perimeter speed he has.
Injury front, how do you stand coming out of the Bears game?
I feel like we came away pretty good. There’s always bumps and bruises. Going into the game we were a little concerned about Tony Jefferson, but he obviously answered the bell and played excellent yesterday. Overall, it was a great day. It was unbelievable to see Larry Fitzgerald step up and have the day he did — it was great to see him get those touches. And I think the highlight of my weekend was to see the Red Sea, the Cardinal fanbase, took over the lower bowl at the end of the game. Michael Bidwell and I were talking on the sidelines after the game and what a thrill that was to see the continued support the fans give us, and I know University of Phoenix Stadium will be rocking this weekend.
Talk a little bit more about Chris Johnson and what you saw from Chris Johnson. One thing I love, I love the way he finishes runs. He’s not a big guy. He’s not known as being that physical type runner.
No doubt. I looked at Michael halfway through the game to acknowledge what you just said. For a slighter-built back, not only does he have great feet and patience, but the one thing he does is he can lower and finish at the end of the run. When he gets out in space, he gets skinny and does some nice things with his run style, but his ability to finish between the tackles has been a pleasant surprise.
Speaking of him, I really loved Bruce Arians did. One of the John Brown pass interference penalties that he drew, Chris Johnson put his nose into pass protection and just got crushed a little bit. He tried to hold as much as he could. The very next play, they hand the ball off to Chris Johnson. You could tell that was one of those, ‘hey, we saw what you did there, here’s the ball.’ I’m assuming you’re pretty happy with him in pass-pro, Steve?
Very. Just the short period of time he’s been with us, he’s impressed me with his character, his practice habits and overall his toughness. He looked like a young Ron Wolfley stepping in there.
When you go home every night … does your wife high-five you based on the fact that you got Carson Palmer for a sixth-round pick?
Unfortunately, no. She tells me to change the baby’s diaper and to put the luggage away.
Just your thoughts on how well this guy is playing. It’s amazing, Steve.
It’s hard to put into words. Everything he brings to the table in this organization. Leadership, poise, presence, he’s a man’s man off the field, he’s a great leader on the field. He’s been a Godsend for this organization and couldn’t be prouder the way he’s come back from the injury. If he continues to play like this, we’re going to be tough to beat.
I admit sitting on the couch yesterday, I’m a little concerned five minutes in the game and Carson Palmer is still out there. Were you concerned?
Not at all. I don’t know if you guys remember the last time we played at Soldier Field, we had a huge lead and we took Kurt Warner out of the game, Matt Leinart was inserted and the Bears almost came back and beat us. To me in the NFL, I don’t know when you can ever say enough’s enough. At the same time, I have a tremendous amount of confidence in our head coach. Twenty-three wins in two-years plus that we’ve been together, and two of the three years he’s been Head Coach of the Year. Again, I have complete trust and faith in him, that he’s going to make the right decisions.
When you look at your cornerback position, are you concerned at all? I know that you’ve got Tyrann Mathieu, I know that you’ve got some options there with (Chris) Clemons. But do you feel like you need to get a fourth corner in here?
No, I think if we incurred another injury or two it’s a different scenario. But because we have so much positional flexibility in the back end, I feel very confident in those guys. At the same time, we have three very solid corners on our practice squad that can be elevated at any time. We saw Cariel Brooks in the preseason and then we have two other corners (Leon McFadden and Robert Nelson) that we added in the preseason.
With you being 2-0, it’s got to feel great and you already mentioned cleaning up mistakes. Any other deep concerns for you going into San Francisco?
No, it’s just, again when you play against a San Francisco team with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, that puts a tremendous amount of stress on your defense with his ability to make plays with his feet. That is concerning. Again, our guys remaining focused and eliminating some of these self-inflicted mistakes. I think we’re going to be a tough out for anybody if we play at the high level and eliminate those mistakes.
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