The preseason is over, and the games are for real now.
After a training camp that saw General Manager Steve Keim make some challenging roster moves to finalize the 53-man roster, the Cardinals look ready to go for their Sunday night clash with the New England Patriots.
Keim joined Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday, as he usually does every Monday, to discuss how the preseason went and what he expects from the team moving forward.
Did you have Labor Day off?
“I did not guys, we had a long weekend and the personnel department did a fantastic job led by Terry McDonough and Quentin Harris. Those guys worked around the clock all weekend making sure that we had reports on everybody that was released and that we could come through that waiver wire and see if there was anybody that could help us, whether it was on the active roster or the practice squad. Again, I cannot say enough about the job those guys do.”
How do you feel about your 53-man roster?
“I feel great, I really do. (We) Have quite a bit of depth at certain spots, feel really good about the type of playmakers we have on the perimeter, feel good about the health of our team right now, with Tyrann (Mathieu) coming back and Pat (Peterson) being back at full strength, and I really think we have a great opportunity ahead of us.”
Why did you keep so many defensive linemen?
“Well I think it’s when you look at your strength, if there’s not a great trade opportunity that you can take advantage of, why not keep depth at a certain position where there could be attrition at times at certain times of the season, where we have guys go down because of injury, so you can never tell from a depth standpoint what’s going to happen, and have guys, younger players in particular that are under contract moving forward. That is also a benefit when you look at the big picture.”
Have you been in any trade talks in regards to your defensive linemen?
“We entertained some calls, but again, when you look at the compensation involved over the conversation that just occurred, it didn’t feel like it was in our best interest for the players that we have. Again, you look at not only this year, but you have to take into consideration, in my position, future years because of guys whose contracts expire and young players who again are under contract for years in advance. I think you need to think of some of those objectives.”
What is it about Aaron Murray and Zac Dysert that you wanted them on your practice squad?
“They were certainly the highest rated guys that we had looked at that were practice squad eligible and there (is) no doubt the practice squad is a great tool for developing players and finding out whether a guy has what it takes to contribute on the 53-man roster, so we’ll continue to turn that like we do with the 53 and we’ll try to find the best players available, and that’s why we bring in players on a weekly basis on Tuesdays for workouts and why we continue to do that. You can never tell, particularly at that position, the quarterback position, what you have with a player until you spend time with him, and both these young guys have potential and we’ll certainly find out the next few weeks what they look like.”
Are you surprised about any guys on your practice squad that weren’t picked up by another team?
“No, I mean I think there’s always a question where guys have done just enough in the preseason to potentially excite other teams and you can just never tell. I think Elijhaa Penny’s last game in the preseason where he rushed for over 100 yards, showing his ability to lower his shoulders and finish between the tackles, and he has pretty nimble feet for a big guy, wasn’t quite sure with him. Obviously Britt Golden has played a lot of football and has experience on special teams, so you can just never tell, but we certainly feel good about our practice squad and some of the guys we were able to sneak through.”
When did Lamar Louis make the team?
“Certainly his value on special teams stood out to us you know and I would say halfway through camp he was a guy we had earmarked and said if we were able to keep five inside linebackers he would certainly be a candidate because of what he’s done on special teams. And as an inside linebacker he’s extremely explosive, he can run laterally well, and he’s a guy I think because of experience can continue to get better. He also has positional versatility. He can play both inside spots and we feel really good moving forward with some of these young guys.”
Did you guys want Matt Barkley back on the practice squad and did you try to get him?
“I’m not going to say the opportunity wasn’t there, but there’s no doubt that he probably saw the opportunity in Chicago as a better fit and we wish him well.”
Who are you keeping your eye on the most during Sunday night’s game against the New England Patriots?
“I don’t think it’s any one player, I think because of the way we played early on in the preseason, to make sure that we’re playing (well) as a unit. I talked about on your previous show that I felt like we had some individuals stand out in the preseason but we didn’t play particularly well together as a team, and I just think that now all of a sudden we’re on Sunday Night Football, these guys will be amped up, just to make sure that we will start eliminating mistakes, playing a little more consistently in the red zone, but I have no doubt that the type of playmakers we have will be ready this coming Sunday night against New England.”
Are you done manipulating the 53-man roster?
“No, no. I think that any chance we get to improve it, and that’s why to me you try and keep some flexibility on the back end of it, whether it’s the last two or three players where you can continually move roster spots, give yourself the ability to make trades, you can never forecast injuries which I talked about earlier, so we’ll continue to bring in players every week and if there’s a guy we think can help us we’ll certainly sign him.”
Since today’s Tuesday, are you working any players out today?
“No, today’s the one exception, but we will have a full set of players come in next Tuesday and we’re working on that right now.”
How much are you expecting Mathieu to play on Sunday night?
“No different from what Bruce (Arians) had said, unless there’s something different that I don’t know. Just the way he’s looked in practice the last two weeks, I have a lot of confidence in him. The natural knee bend, the change of direction, the things that I saw in practice and on tape leads me to believe that he’s going to come back and play at a high level.”
How healthy is the team for Sunday night?
“For the most part I think we look pretty good. Having four days off here gave some guys (a chance) to rest up a little bit and clean up some of the bumps and bruises, but I really do feel pretty good about going into this weekend.”
Is this the best 53-man roster you have assembled since being a part of this staff?
“I don’t think there’s any question, and I think the one thing that leads me to believe that is in the past it was pretty easy for the coach to determine who’s going to be inactive on Sunday and when (Arians) comes into my office and talks through the game plan and we talk through who’s going to be inactive, it’s becoming more and more difficult for him, so that leads me to believe that we’re doing the right things on the personnel side and I can’t say enough about our staff. The stuff that Mike Disner does with our salary cap and again Terry and Quentin and all the guys, Malik Boyd, Adrian Wilson, Glen Fox, our two scouting assistants, Ryan Gold, Alfonza Knight, these guys all do such a great job and they spend countless hours in here trying to make this team better.”
Out of all the cuts made, was there one that was tougher than the others?
“I wouldn’t say so, it’s always tough to give up on a young guy that you think still has potential to play in this league, and more than anything it’s just tough because you get emotionally attached to these guys, and you understand that they’re trying to live out a dream, just like I tried to live out a dream at one time to play in this league, so it’s tough. It’s never a happy situation to see the disappointment on their faces, that really hits home.”
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