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Keim Time: A lot of good things in win over Raiders, but much to improve upon

LISTEN: Steve Keim, Arizona Cardinals general manager

Two down, three to go.

The Arizona Cardinals notched their first win of the exhibition slate Saturday against the Oakland Raiders, winning at University of Phoenix Stadium by a score of 20-10.

It was a solid outing that included the preseason debuts for many of the team’s starters, and perhaps more important than anything on the scoreboard or in the box score, it appeared the Cardinals made it out of the game pretty healthy.

As he will every week from here until the end of the season, Cardinals GM Steve Keim joined Doug and Wolf on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station to talk about what happened in Saturday’s game, give some insight into the roster and then present his expectations for Arizona’s next game, which will be Saturday at home against the Chicago Bears.

How are you doing?

“Good. Good to be back on. Like any preseason game there were a lot of good things and certainly some things we can improve upon and a lot of coaching points for our players to get back with our coaches today in meetings and practice and try to right the ship.”

What did you think of after watching the Raiders tape?

“Offensive execution, I thought was, for another week, was very good — particularly when you look at a preseason game. I liked the physicality. I thought early on in the game we set the tone and we were physical at the point of attack on both sides of the ball up front. But there are some things, again, that we can improve upon. After we scored our touchdown in the initial drive you would have liked to have seen a three-and-out by our defense, but there were some leaky yards given up, some missed tackles and some things that, again, are going to be coaching points today in our film rooms.”

Was there any concern when David Johnson took a big hit Saturday?

“I saw him pop right up so it’s going to be tough to hurt a 228-pound back, regardless of the collision. David’s a guy that, as good as he is, he needs the reps as well. Not only in the passing game but the run game and understanding his keys and all those sort of things. And that’s the only way that you get better, is to replicate it through full speed play.”

Is this the best Robert Nkemdiche has looked since becoming a Cardinal?

“I would say so. He can be a dominating presence inside, yet at the same time, there are so many things he needs to improve upon. Whether it’s his pad level, his use of hands, his angles — so Robert is certainly headed in the right direction. The want-to, the work ethic off the field, the film study — all that stuff’s there, so he’s applying himself. It’s just the little things now that he has to continue to grow and improve upon.”

How’s Haason Reddick doing?

“Good. Him and Budda (Baker) are very similar. They’re both guys that you see the natural athleticism out there, but it starts with your eyes and we all know that the NFL is a little different animal because of the speed of the game and the schematical side. So once he gets an understanding of the game, what offenses are trying to do in terms of dictating from a lineup standpoint, from whether they are trying to motion, where his eyes need to be. Those are the things that, to me, Haason needs to grow and improve upon as well. Every snap he’s just getting better and better, and that’s what you want from your young players. You want to see guys playing full speed. If they’re going to make mistakes, see them make them fast. But again, the practice time and the film study, that stuff is all necessary for young players.”

And Budda Baker flashed again. What’s the scouting report on him?

“Some good and some bad. He’s extremely aggressive — almost to a point where he will get a little nosy and stick his nose in the box where he’s got to play with a little more depth in coverage. But from a man (coverage) standpoint, he’s got all the skills to play the nickel and the slot, where he can match up against receivers. And he’s also got the range to play the deep half. Again, his biggest question mark is whether he can keep his eyes out of the backfield, whether he can read his keys and whether he can stay disciplined in coverage.”

What do you look for while you’re watching a game live, and then after when you watch on film?

“When you watch it live, it’s much tougher to evaluate, but when you go back and whether it’s the night after the game or first thing in the morning, then you have an opportunity to go through and look at every player that’s on the field. So that, to me, is really where you get your best evaluation. The live stuff gives you a better understanding of how guys maybe are throwing the ball with velocity or how fast a guy looks in live action, but the film study is where you understand the technique, the angles, whether they’re being disciplined in their play. Those are the things that ultimately matter the most. They always say that the eye in the sky doesn’t lie, so that film study is the most important part of the process.”

Give us a name nobody’s talking about.

“I would say that I was extremely pleased with Josh Bynes, the linebacker, No. 45, who we signed off the street a few weeks ago. I thought he played very well, other than there was a play where he had to carry a seam route against the tight end, he got a ball caught on him. But he’s been a guy that came in, picked up our defense extremely quick, has really good range and straight-line speed. He’s physical at the point of attack. He’s got some cover ability and he’s got some length, when you look at his size he’s a little over 6-2. He’s a guy that has had some success in the past — I think two years ago in Detroit he had 82 tackles and then last year he had some injury issues. But saw him on tape, thought he was a guy we could bring in off the street and could potentially have a shot at making this roster and competing for a spot. I thought the other night he played very well.”

Is there anyone you’re a bit frustrated with or hoped to see more from?

“I don’t think so. I would say early on I was a little disappointed with maybe Brandon Williams, just from a consistency standpoint, but the last couple weeks I think Brandon has really picked it up, is working his tail off. Sometimes we forget that just two years ago he was a running back. He’s trying to perfect his craft, Kevin Ross our DB coach is working extremely hard with him on the fundamentals, the footwork, the spacing, the understanding route combinations. So he’s come a long way and I would just like to think with his size and his speed and athleticism he’s going to continue to grow in that position. But I can’t really think of a lot of guys who, in my opinion, are underachieving. I think that a lot of guys are focused. The attention to detail has been excellent, we’re minimizing mental mistakes, for the most part, in comparison to last year. You look at guys, you talked about Nkemdiche or (DJ Humphries), guys who were high draft picks, who had tremendous skill sets, who had to learn to become pros. Both of those guys are heading in the right direction right now.”

When you look at your punters, were you happy? Are you still going to be looking for one?

“We’re going to always look at every position, whether it’s improving our depth or even just our training camp competition. But both of those punters, you could see the other night, had extremely live legs. There’s a lot more than just punting a ball 65 yards. There’s a combination of hang time and distance and ball placement, so those are the things most fans don’t see that you have to take into account that our special teams coach, our head coach, everybody looks at. We have to put ourselves in position because if there’s too much long grass that you’re giving a guy a chance to run and set up returns, then you’re going to get bitten in the rear. There’s a lot of things that go into it so we’ll just continue to work with both of those punters on not only their placement, but the hang time and make sure that everything is on point.”

What do you want to see in this next game against the Bears?

“Just continuing to build on the little things that we’ve done so far. I’ve been extremely pleased with the offensive execution, for as early as it is in camp. I thought all three quarterbacks played well. I thought for Carson’s first action, the one thing that stood out to me is I thought his arm looked extremely live. Aside from that, just defensively, reading your keys, making sure they play sound with gap control. There were a few runs where I felt like we got out of our gaps. And continuing to play with the right technique; keeping their pads down and playing aggressive because I know from a personnel standpoint on defense, we have a lot of explosive playmakers. Now I just want to see them play smart football, play under control, read their keys and make plays.”

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