Keim Time: Impressions before Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game
Following their annual Red & White Practice Saturday, the Cardinals are getting set for Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game.
Instead of another week of practice before their first preseason matchup, the team will fly out to Canton to take on the Cowboys, letting the battle for 53 get its first taste of game action.
To discuss the state of some pivotal positional battles, along with who has stood out to him thus far, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim joined Doug and Wolf on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station as he will do every Monday throughout the season, to share his thoughts.
Can you talk a little bit about the philosophy of team building? Has it changed at all in the NFL? And if so, how?
“I think everybody has a different philosophy, but I think the hardest part for a guy like myself is how you’re going to allocate your money in terms of the salary cap. You obviously have your core pair players in place at the most important positions, whether it’s quarterback, or corner, pass rusher, left tackle, those certain positions. But then the hardest part as you approach camp is usually those last 10 players on the roster. How are those guys going to fit in schematically? What are the contributions on special teams? And really the big thing is on game day, which players are going to be active, inactive and that’s the hardest part. Trying to understand who’s going to be up, who’s going to be down and then on top of that, building a practice squad, that’s not a team for practice in my mind. A team that really is, a farm team that any point in time an injury can occur or a player can go down and you feel good enough about that player coming up.”
Tell me about [cornerback] Ronald [Zamort] the person. Did you already reach out to him? Have you already talked to him? And how he’s doing after the injury?
“Yeah, we all talked to him, and think like a lot of players, they’re in shock. And it’s tough for them because they put so much time and effort into it and he was an undrafted free agent and a guy who has continually grown and got better and had an opportunity to make our football team and certainly contribute on special teams. It’s a tough part of the game and those are the things that occur that don’t make our jobs easy is when you see a young man trying out live out his dream and it just falls short because of an injury.”
How long have you been talking to the Tramon Williams camp and what do you expect from him?
“Well, it’s been a few weeks, so it wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to the injury, but once we start to approach camp always been my philosophy to start attacking that free agent market that has some of those players that are unsigned and we liked in the spring that are out there whether it’s because of injuries, contract demands, and those sort of things. Really, really liked what Tramon brought to the table in terms of leadership, the guy he is in the locker room. The tape that I watched of him, he’s got great positional versatility, he played a little out of position, in my opinion, at safety when he was in Cleveland, but then go back and see him at perimeter corner in Green Bay and he played some nickel. And just really has a good feel for the game, you know he’s got really good feet, he’s got great quickness and the one thing that I really liked is his understanding of leverage and route combinations and the way that he can jump those things is really what it’s all about. I mean, it’s kind of like we always talk, it doesn’t matter how talented a guy is, particularly these young guys, until he understands how to play the game and understand it from a schematical standpoint, it puts you in a tough position.”
Steve, when I say Cards Camp 2017, where does your mind go? What players are sticking out to you? What players are you watching on film and are impressing you on a regular basis?
“Well, when you’re around a lot of the veterans and whether it’s the Carsons, the Larrys, the Jermaine Greshams, I mean I think you always have a good feel for what they are, you just hope their skills don’t diminish and I certainly haven’t seen that with any of them. A lot of the young guys are a focus and really, really excited about the new additions in free agency, [kicker] Phil Dawson has been lights out so far, I think that he is going to make huge contributions for us this year and then Robert Nkemdiche, I don’t want to anoint him as a Hall of Famer yet, but he has certainly put in the work and not only on the field, but off the field. Whether it’s studying the tape, the preparation in the weight room and he is playing at a high level right now, and so is [defensive tackle] Olsen Pierre, a guy that we had on our roster last year and was not active most of the season, he’s another young man that has great positional flexibility, can bounce inside and outside and he has great quickness and length, so I think that he is going to be a guy that can create obstacles for offensive linemen in the passing game.”
Advantage or disadvantage that you’re playing in the Hall of Fame Game Thursday?
“Advantage. Anytime I think you can get another live look at, particularly some of your young players, again the Budda Bakers of the world, the Haason Reddicks, the Chad Williams’, some of the linemen that we’ve drafted and some of the young players, it’s always good to try and get, because you know as hard as we practice, you can never replicate full speed game stuff. Not only the physical part of it, but the ability to quickly process on your feet and the decisions that you have to make in a game, I just think it will be a great experience for all of us.”
Are you surprised that Evan Boehm seems to be settling in at right guard?
“I would just say from a stature standpoint that he doesn’t possess the ideal length you’re looking for, he certainly is built more like a center, but the two attributes that he has that are really good are he has really good feet and he’s got really strong hands. His lateral quickness, his ability to take on and his strength when he gets his hands inside, he’s a good player and he’s really grown in this offense mentally understanding all of the checks and the things we ask him to do and as you know, coming out one of his strengths was his toughness and there is no doubt that he is a tough, physical player. Seeing him and all the weight that [left guard] Mike Iupati lost and [center] A.Q. [Shipley] coming back and [right tackle] Jared [Veldheer] playing well and [left tackle] D.J. [Humphries] continues to take steps and really have high expectations for him because D.J. has had a real strong camp so far.”
Who are the veterans that you are saying ‘wow, I like what I’m seeing right there?’
“Jaron Brown, particularly coming off ACL surgery, he has worked his tail off and he’s a true pro, a guy we had confidence to come back from the injury and he certainly hasn’t let us down. Couple other guys that I would say have been impressive, you know Patrick Peterson just continues to be a pro and is consistent. Tyrann Mathieu is starting to come around in terms of just feeling comfortable, and we knew that would be the case. When you sustain those types of injuries, you have to get your legs back under you and you have to get the feel of the game back and we all know that Ty lives on his instincts and you’re starting to see him now starting to make plays. And then I would say a couple other guys, you know having Karlos Dansby back is exciting for me, because the way he directs traffic on defense and his command, his ability to see things just from a linemen standpoint, if he, whether it’s an offensive linemen or if an offense gets in a two-by-two and just the way they motion, I mean the guy has tremendous football IQ, so I think it’s going to pay huge dividends for us to have Karlos out there leading our defense.”
Can you handicap the backup quarterback battle for us?
“Well, I mean, I think it’s a little early for Blaine [Gabbert] because he is still continuing to learn the offense. Now again, he’s shown us some good things. I mean he’s got a nice release, he’s got enough arm strength, he’s made some really good throws and if you’ve been out there enough, you guys have seen that he’s got some wheels. You know if things break down, he can make things happen with his foot speed. Drew [Stanton], quite frankly, has had a good camp for us and we all know that when there is competition, it raises your level of play and Drew has had a great offseason and has come in ready to go as well.”
Do you have any time this weekend to really sit back and enjoy the Kurt Warner story and the Hall of Fame and really be invested and be a part of it and sit and watch it, or do you need to get home and get to camp after the game Thursday?
“No, I mean thankfully Michael [Bidwill] afforded me the opportunity and the ability to go and spend that time with them and I won’t be able to attend. Wish Kurt the best, he’s been a true pro and he’s a good friend and nobody is more deserving because it is amazing what he has done. Not only in the NFL, and in particular what he did for this organization, and he was a lot of fun to watch. I think back to those days and when he would get hot, I don’t know that I have ever seen a quarterback throw with better natural anticipation, I mean he put that ball out there and it was amazing when we would get on a run and some of the ball placement and anticipation that he would throw with, he was a special guy.”
Has the definition of a franchise quarterback changed in the NFL in terms of what he’s already accomplished at college?
“I don’t think there’s any doubt because the supply and demand has gotten so difficult and offenses have changed. The ability to come in and play right away has really changed and then what really is the definition of a franchise quarterback? Is it a guy that you acknowledge and sign to a long-term deal or is a guy that you think you can win with, you know, or is it both? That’s the difficult part of it and I know one thing, we have a franchise quarterback right now. The biggest task, as we have always talked about, is my job is to find the next franchise quarterback, so that’s the one that keeps you up at night.”