Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has 14 years of tenure in the team’s front office and now, for the first time, he likes what he’s seeing with the secondary unit.
“We’ve got some real depth there for the first time probably since I’ve been with the Cardinals,” Keim told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf on Monday.
And, to clarify, he did indeed mean real depth — “top to bottom” depth, Keim says.
The secondary was overhauled over the offseason, with star cornerback Patrick Peterson, second-year player Justin Bethel, third-year player Jamell Fleming and safety Rashad Johnson the only remnants of the 2012 unit.
The departures of safeties Kerry Rhodes, Adrian Wilson and James Sanders, along with cornerbacks William Gay, Michael Adams and Greg Toler, left vacancies for newcomers to fill.
One training camp and one preseason game under his belt, Keim is pleased with the way the holes have been filled, heaping praise on virtually every member of his made-over group of defensive backs.
Monday’s on-air hallowing began with the tenured Peterson, regarded as one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL, and went down the line.
“Patrick, obviously with the pick (in Friday’s preseason game vs. the Green Bay Packers), is playing about as good as you could ask a corner to play right now,” said Keim.
“(He’s) really challenging routes,” he added.
Onto a pair of newcomers, the general manager addressed the play of veteran cornerbacks Antoine Cason and Jerraud Powers, who are in a battle for the right cornerback spot.
“And then, you know, Jerraud Powers, Antoine Cason — those guys are in a huge battle on the opposite side,” Keim explained, adding that Powers is able to slide into the nickelback position.
Offseason acquisition Javier Arenas, previously of the Kansas City Chiefs, has garnered similarly positive rapport.
“Javier Arenas is playing well,” he said. “I mean, he is a savvy guy who’s got great instinct.”
And beyond instinct, Arenas, who has recorded 136 tackles in three years in the NFL, has already gained a reputation from coaches, teammates and broadcasters as a physical force.
“He is tough as nails,” said Keim. “(Larry Fitzgerald) has told me several times, when he’s in there at the slot and Javier’s the nickel, when he gets his hands on you, he can really reroute you.
“He was a great pickup for us, as well,” Keim concluded.
Finally, the story of the Cardinals’ 2013 draft, Tyrann Mathieu, who didn’t play a snap during the 2012-13 NCAA football season after being dismissed from the LSU Tigers, has attracted the eyes of many with his stellar performance both in training camp and during Friday’s game at Lambeau Field.
“Obviously, Tyrann has played both safety and the nickel spot for us,” Keim said. “And he’s done a fantastic job.”