Keim Time: Cardinals looking for consistency from Gabbert, team

Dec 4, 2017, 9:07 AM | Updated: 4:25 pm

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After a surprising home victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Arizona Cardinals’ ambitions took a blow Sunday with the second loss of the season to the Los Angeles Rams.

Cardinals general manager Steve Keim liked the effort but not the execution in all three phases. He joins Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station every Monday morning during the season, and this week, he addressed the inconsistency of the team, what he’d like to see from quarterback Blaine Gabbert and the contract extension given to defensive lineman Corey Peters.

It’s Keim Time.

Steve, just your general thoughts on the game yesterday and the loss against the Rams.

I think I agree with what Coach (Bruce Arians) told the team after the game. The effort was there. Our guys played hard. It’s just the execution and the execution on all three sides, whether it was defense, special teams or the offensive side. We did some good things. The second quarter where we were able to start running the ball effectively, the fact that Kerwynn Williams rushed for almost 100 yards with cracked ribs to me said a lot about, not only Kerwynn, his toughness — every time he’s gotten an opportunity I feel like in the past two or three years, he’s stepped up to the plate and answered the bell.

For you, Steve, as an evaluator of all things in the organization, where’s the line that’s between the reality of injuries and the expectations. Some fans will say, ‘Well, Minnesota is winning with a third-string quarterback.’ Yet there’s plenty more examples of when you lose quarterbacks and you lose running backs, you’re not going to win a lot of games. How do you look at where the execution is from this team game in and game out versus the reality of your IR list?

I don’t think you can ever use injuries as an excuse. In fact, there’s a lot of times where in my mind, as I’m looking at our depth chart on my board in my office, I’ll envision certain players that go down, and that’s the way you have to build your 53-man roster. You have to build it in a way where you can miss four, five, six players and you can still function and have an opportunity to win football games.

Again, that’s on me. I have to do a better job moving forward, and they’re all learning lessons in this business, and it’s humbling. It’s extremely humbling, not only the evaluation process because it is such an inexact science but as you do this — the longer you do it, I should say — it teaches you different lessons about building a team and building depth, and that’s something we’ll continue to grow and improve upon moving forward.

I agree with you, especially in regard to the effort. I don’t think it was a lack of effort. But why do you think the first quarter went the way that it did (Arizona trailed 16-0 after the first). You came out and it wasn’t about being flat, it wasn’t about bringing effort, it was more about just not making any plays and playing poorly to some degree. Any theories to why that happened in the first quarter?

No, I don’t know why we didn’t start fast. Obviously you can’t turn the football over, which we did — two interceptions were awful costly. Just the fact that we didn’t run the football as effectively in the first quarter, and again, we started to run the football and other things opened up. That’s the thing, Wolf, that’s hard to put your finger on, is why we don’t play with consistency.

That’s not only from a team standpoint but from an individual standpoint. There’s a lot of different guys that play in flashes. They don’t play with the consistency you need to be a winning football team. Week in and week out it’s been a challenge, but you know, yesterday there was a couple different players that stepped up. Again, it’s been encouraging to me to see young guys that are given an opportunity, whether again it’s Ricky Seals-Jones or in yesterday’s case, to me, Josh Bynes played exceptional.

There’s been a lot of special teams issues over the course of the last three years and a lot of fans and media say it’s time to make a change on the coaching staff from Amos Jones. You guys wouldn’t still have him there if you didn’t believe he was the right guy to be the special teams coach. Why do you believe Amos Jones should be the special teams coach of the Arizona Cardinals?

The one thing you guys know about me is I’m never going to go on record or publicly and bash any of our players individually or one of our coaches. The bottom line is, and it’s not excuse, our special teams, it’s been unacceptable — point blank. That’s something that needs to improve and I’ll just leave it at that.

What about Blaine Gabbert? When you watch the film of Blaine Gabbert, what do you see? I thought he showed a little bit of resiliency.

He did. He showed some resiliency. The bottom line with him is everybody from the media to the fans to the personnel people can see that the guy has a skillset that intrigues you. He can throw the football, he’s got arm strength, he’s got mobility. The bottom line to me is the consistency factor, whether it’s awareness in the pocket, whether it’s making some of the touch throws, whether it’s clock management or the ability to get the ball out and he’s pressured and there’s a coverage sack situation. Those are all things that to me could potentially come with time.

So his body of work and seeing him play right now is critical to us as you make decisions moving forward. At the same time as it’s been really fun to see him play, these are all critical moments as you think about the future and you think about Blaine Gabbert moving forward, it’s all key pieces to the puzzle.

Just so fans know, if I ask Steve Keim about Alex Smith, Kirk Cousins, things like that, there’s things called tampering and then he gets actually fined. He’s not going to be able to answer questions about players that are possibly going to be free agents. But as it relates to Blaine Gabbert, how does his 2017 affect your 2018 plans? Does it push you to trade up further in the first round if you like a rookie quarterback? Do you worry about 2018 quarterback with the list of free agents that might be there? What are you looking at with Blaine Gabbert as it relates with 2018?

Again, what I just said, the body of work the improvement, whether he can become more consistent in every phase. The bottom line is we’ll leave no stone unturned. Again, you just nailed it for me, where I can’t talk about other players. At the same time, whether it’s through free agency, whether it’s through trade options, whether it’s through the draft, we’ll leave no stone unturned and we’ll be extremely aggressive this offseason.

Earlier in the week, you extended Corey Peters on a three-year deal. Talk about that decision.

Corey Peters is a player to me that is constantly under the radar. For me, he’s a guy that not only leads in our locker room but he plays an important role in our defense, whether it’s playing the 1 (technique), the 3 (technique). He can bounce around, he’s got some pass-rush ability from the interior. More than anything, Wolf, as you know, he’s extremely disruptive against the run.

Corey is a guy that we wanted to have back as a core member of this football team, and if anything else does a tremendous job in our locker room as a leader. Again, we’re really thankful to have him back for another three-year contract.

You still have a week, but as you sit here, do you think Adrian Peterson (neck injury) goes against the Titans?

You know, we’ll reevaluate that this week, but I think there’s a chance. There’s a good chance for a couple of these to come back this week, starting with Corey Peters, John Brown. Adrian has an opportunity where we may get to see him back. Instead of coming out of this game banged up — which I feel like based on last night’s information that we came our relatively healthy — that hopefully we’ll get even a few more players back.

Quickly, as you watched the film, what’d you think of the offensive line and their play?

You know what, it wasn’t as bad as maybe I thought from a live-view standpoint. There were a couple times where Blaine had to get the ball out and there were coverage sack situations. But for the most part, other than probably four or five snaps, I thought they protected fairly well and as you could see in the second quarter when we were runing the ball, those guys were coming off the double teams and the combination blocks were fairly productive.

Again, it’s been a patchwork playing with the line without (left tackle) D.J. (Humphries) and (left guard) Mike Iupati and a couple of those guys, but you know, at the same time that’s another area where moving into the offseason there’s no doubt we’re going to have to improve.

How’s the film study on (defensive lineman) Robert Nkemdiche?

Robert is a guy who continues to flash. He’ll have a play or two where he’ll show the explosiveness, the acceleration, the ability to rush the passer, and then there are times where he’s going to be on the ground or he’s blocked at the point of attack. Again, a guy that the more football he plays, I think he’s going to continue to grow and develop. Again, that’s on Robert and his work as a pro to continue to grow in this system.

With your job as an evaluator, does there ever come a point where you sit down with B.A. and you say, ‘Listen, we’ve got to start playing this kid, we’ve got to look at this kid’? Are there conversations that will be had moving forward in the month of December?

Oh, constantly. But it’s not always just from me. There are times when B.A. comes down to my office and says, “Hey, we need to get this kid some reps,’ or ‘I think think it’s time for this young man to have an opportunity.’ Those conversations are constant and they’ve fluid, and again, they don’t always just come from me. There are times where he has ideas or members of his coaching staff has those ideas.

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