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Steve Keim Time: Cardinals need more consistent play

Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle Earl Watford (78) and offensive guard John Fullington (79) block Detroit Lions defensive end Devin Taylor (98) during an NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
LISTEN: Steve Keim, Cardinals general manager

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 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 42-17 win against the Detroit Lions.

How healthy are you coming out of your win against the Lions?

There’s no question there were some bumps and bruises. I’ll meet with Tom Reed and our medical staff later today. There are a few players who were sent out for MRIs and X-rays this morning so at this time I don’t have any information. Later today at some point, I’ll be able to meet with Tom and his staff and we’ll determine what injuries occurred and move on from there, and determine whether we need to sign any additional players.

Were they sent back because the doctors have gone back (To Arizona)? 

No the doctors are here (in West Virginia), the whole medical staff is here. It’s a great fantastic set-up, I know (Cardinals president) Michael (Bidwill) will talk about it a little later, but we are fully staffed.

Talk a little bit about Chris Johnson and his performance.

The thing you’ve got to keep in mind about Chris, here’s a guy who did not have a whole offseason with us. From there, we were able to bring him into camp and he had an injury, a soft tissue issue right away. So really, Chris Johnson is just now hitting his stride in terms of being in football shape. His ability to run with patience and he’s got tremendous feet and balance and his ability to finish runs between the tackles had really been something that stood out to me.

What position does Deone Bucannon play?

Well, he playing linebacker but there’s no question to me, it’s always an advantage to have hybrid players. When I say hybrid players, guys who can have a certain amount of versatility, can play inside, can play outside and we have several guys in every level of the defensive front: at linebacker, at safety and corner where there are guys who can give you the positional versatility and that gives James Bettcher the ability to do so many things schematically. Deone had an excellent day yesterday, to me he’s one of the guys who stood out. Eleven tackles, he was extremely active and when he runs to the football he looks like he’s shot out of a cannon with his quickness, his speed and his athleticism.

Based on the fact that he’s on a 1-year contract, when is it too early to start talking about Chris Johnson and his long term with the Cardinals?

That’s something that we always monitor, day to day. We spend a lot of time on the contract analysis and spending time talking to the agents, so that’s something that we’ll look at, but he’s done an unbelievable job for us. Balance is the key to it all and that was the goal all along in the offseason was to get bigger, more physical upfront and to create that balance where we can run the football effectively and it obviously opens up the play action game.

Open-ended question: What’s your biggest concerns after a wonderful start to the season?

Well there’s always the injury issues that you have to deal with which is every year. But by no means did we play flawless yesterday. When you look at the tape, there’s so many things we can correct, that we can improve upon. We were opportunistic on defense but we gave up too many explosive plays at the same time. And really continuing to play with balance. I felt like we came out yesterday, quite frankly,  and we were flat and then I think we picked it up a little bit. Just to get a win on the road is always huge in this league. You go into every game, regardless of what team you’re playing, and to get a win on the road is always big. Knowing that we failed last week, dropped the ball and lost the game at home, which was extremely disappointing, to really get back on track was big for us.

How fun is it to see Larry Fitzgerald targeted again? How fun is it to see this rejuvenation?

It’s great. Having such a close relationship with him personally. Michael has a great relationship with him. We’ve been together, all of us, for quite some time. To see him not only professionally in the place that he is, but also personally, that he so invested into what we’re doing here has been a lot of fun. Quite frankly, our team feeds off his energy.

Who is Carson Palmer? What does he mean to the team when the game is not going on?

Any time you have leaders who are really all in like Carson and Larry and those guys, I know we have a good locker room when I have guys who are constantly texting me and calling me about potential players in the draft or guys to sign in free agency. When you have a locker room full of guys who are that passionate about the game, you certainly have a chance to succeed. That’s really helped shape my thoughts on the evaluation process – scouting and drafting and signing players – there’s a skillset you have to look at as an evaluator but just as important is the guy’s heart and mind and how much he loves the game because that’s the difference between the good and the great ones, that’s where it is. It’s your ability to process information and how much do you love the game.

The Cardinals, offensively and defensively, are holding up very well on the line of scrimmage. Where can you get better? How can you get better? Are you happy so far with the offensive line?

That’s easy, it’s consistency. We’ve had guys who’ve played well in spurts but I don’t think anyone has consistently played well enough. We talked about that in our staff meeting this morning, we’ve got to more consistency out of the guys out front. Carson is still getting hit too much. Some of that comes with communication. Some of the guys are still new – [Jonathan Cooper] is getting his first real start for the year and Mike Iupati being new – there are communication issues that need to be cleaned up. Hopefully that will continue to improve and we’ll hit our stride moving forward. That goes for the defense as well. We can be dominating up front at times, but then there are times that you saw last week where we’re out of our gaps, we get gashed. Again, a lot of that is communication. It’s not the physical part of the game that concerns me, it’s us being concerned mentally.

What concerns you about the Steelers?

It’s always a tough environment to play in, growing up in Pennsylvania, I certainly know what it’s like to play in Pittsburgh. But it’s always a challenge to play them because they’ve got talent. There’s no question they have certain skill players that are as good as you’re going to find out there. Really, just being focused, I feel good about every game that we go into as long as we play our game. When we play like we did last week against the Rams, it’s any given Sunday when you beat yourself. We just have to continue to stay focused and minimize the critical mental errors.

That  St. Louis Rams game is still sitting in your craw isn’t it?

Yeah, it’s tough to get over but it’s a long season. Very few teams go undefeated but those are our goals and expectations to win week in and week out. The hardest part about that loss is to look at it and realize you’re not so much getting beat physically as much as we beat ourselves. But it’s a learning process for our players. Sometimes it’s good to bring the guys back down to earth and make them realize that if you don’t focus and play with consistency, you’re going to get beat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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