GM Keim: Time is now for Nkemdiche, Cardinals still looking at free agents
The Arizona Cardinals saw great value when Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, a potential top-15 prospect in the 2016 draft, fell to their No. 29 slot.
An off-the-field red flag likely led to the tumble, but since entering the NFL, it’s been Nkemdiche’s on-field production that hasn’t lived up to the potential Arizona believes he’s left untapped.
General manager Steve Keim said Nkemdiche, now thrust into a starting role and coming off a strong preseason, has the most to prove.
“I want to see if Robert Nkemdiche can transition from the type of camp he had prior to the injury to the regular season,” Keim told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “At the same time, we know the history that he’s had some injuries and he’s been a first-round pick so it’s time for him to pick it up, there’s no doubt about it.
“We have expectations, he has expectations of himself, but talk is cheap and it’s time to do it on the field. He’s a guy that to me has all the physical traits you look for, but the fact that he hasn’t done it has been a real concern. He’s healthy and he’s ready to go this week.”
Nkemdiche missed the last few weeks of the preseason nursing a foot injury. He was limited in practices Wednesday and Thursday but by all indications is expected to play Sunday as Arizona opens the year against the Washington Redskins at State Farm Stadium.
The third-year tackle recorded 11 tackles and a forced fumble last year as a reserve but has yet to record a career sack.
Keim made the first of his weekly 7:45 a.m. Friday visits with Doug & Wolf. This week, he also discussed David Johnson’s contract extension negotiations, the possibility of the Cardinals looking into free agent receiver Dez Bryant, plus the successful offseason of refurbishing the quarterback and receivers rooms.
No Fortnite here
Bryant, the former Cowboys receiver, remains on the market. He’s been linked to the Cleveland Browns, but with Arizona taking four inexperienced wide receivers into the season, Keim was asked about the possibility of the Cardinals looking in to signing the proven veteran.
“This isn’t fantasy football. There is a business side to this as well you have to take into account,” Keim said. “Many times we talk about all these players — we certainly have reports and conversations about everyone who is on the street. At the same time, there are business sides to it that, you know, can cause some obstacles.
“Everything, whether it’s in-house with (president) Michael Bidwill, with coach, and then with agents — we have those conversations and that kind of dialog all day, every day. That’s what we do. We’re not over here playing Fornite.”
Couldn’t have done much better
Arizona exits the preseason with a healthy starting quarterback, Sam Bradford. Rookie Josh Rosen is the No. 2, and Mike Glennon is an experience third-stringer with plenty of starting experience.
Considering the Cardinals entered the offseason without a quarterback under contract, Keim likes where his team is entering Week 1.
“I feel like we’re really strong in that room,” Keim said Friday.
The general manager saw Bradford’s accuracy and command of offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s system. He believes Rosen’s presence in the huddle and quick learning has made him a fine option as a backup.
But if Keim had a choice, he wouldn’t want to see Rosen, the No. 10 pick that Arizona traded up five spots to draft.
“Based on everything I’ve seen so far, I think Sam Bradford still gives us the best chance to win right now,” the GM said. “If it comes to an injury, obviously I’d be very excited to see Josh go.
“I will tell you this: as we went through every scenario in the offseason, whether it was free agency or the draft and all the different things that could’ve panned out for us at that position, to me when I think about this scenario with the quarterback room that we have, I don’t think it could’ve gone any better.”
Mixing it up
Keim believes McCoy and the Cardinals will attack each week with very different gameplans and packages from an offensive standpoint.
Versatility from tight end, to receiver, to running back will allow Arizona to create mismatches depending on opponent.
“Well, I mean I think there is some young talented guys that certainly need to step up,” Keim said. “Teams are going to play us differently from a defensive schematic standpoint. Not only can you just look at the receiving core, but you look at the two backs we have and the tight end in Ricky Seals-Jones, who also creates some mismatches.
“I think the one thing we’ll have to do from a week-to-week, is determine where are our mismatches and where are the strengths of the defense versus what we pose offensively. I think Mike McCoy will do a great job scheming it up and putting us in a position to succeed.”