‘How many of those am I on?’ Keim eyes improving Cards, not hot seat
Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has a realistic view of where his team stands.
He knows a 2-7 record speaks for itself and knows problems that still boil up are concerning this deep into the season. But Arizona’s front office leader also sees signs of progress, enough to believe that next year could go differently under coach Steve Wilks.
Asked by Doug & Wolf about Wilks’ name appearing on lists of NFL coaching hot seats, Keim gave the self-aware answer.
“Shoot, how many of those am I on?” he said Friday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “This is a results-based business. At the end of the day, not only do we internally have expectations but the fans, I know, have expectations. Rightfully so. This year’s certainly not gone in the direction that we anticipated. That’s something that I’m not even focused on. Right now it’s all about winning football games and showing progress.
“I’m starting to see a lot of things that are exciting me.”
Signs of progress came in a 26-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, a game in which Arizona’s defense held the highest-scoring offense to a season-low in points.
With a home game against the Oakland Raiders up next, the learning curve for players in Wilks and coordinator Al Holcomb’s defense hasn’t been as steep as the Cardinals would like. Yet Keim believes the players haven’t lost their way as the losses have piled up.
“Well, I mean, I think guys are becoming more and more comfortable within the scheme,” the GM said. “I know there are still some issues with the coverage concepts and guys blowing coverages that are concerning.
“But at the same time, the one positive is they’re still playing with a lot of urgency and a lot of energy. From a defensive front standpoint, I think we had five sacks and I know the Chiefs, prior to that I think they gave up two sacks … the most (in a game).”
Offensively the Cardinals’ line struggled, too.
Tackles D.J. Humphries and Andre Smith didn’t hold up well, especially in pass protection, Keim said.
“We got to do a better job of protecting and if that is implementing chips and things from a pass-protection standpoint, that’s something we have to look into,” he added.
Here’s what else Keim touched on in his weekly 7:45 a.m. Friday appearance on Doug & Wolf.
ABOUSHI SHOWS FLASHES
Hurting the Cardinals’ cause along the offensive line, guard Justin Pugh went down with an MCL injury Sunday and is out for the rest of the year.
Veteran Oday Aboushi, who signed with Arizona on Oct. 23, stepped into action and performed well.
“It’s never a good thing whenever you have starters go down, particularly in a league where supply and demand is such an issue at a number of positions, and none more than probably offensive line, where now all of a sudden you’re playing guys who weren’t on your roster at the beginning of the year,” Keim said.
“I felt like Oday actually played fairly well when he came in last week, he’s got some … strength and did some things in the run game that I thought I felt like were pretty good.”
Aboushi, 27, has 26 NFL starts over his five-year career.
JOHNSON OF 2016
The theme of the week in Cardinals headquarters? Running back David Johnson looks like his 2016 self.
“I think it’s getting back to, again, some of the things he did well in 2016. That’s whether it’s certain run plays that are called, whether it’s the way he presses the line of scrimmage, using his vision. But even more than anything, to me, it’s creating those isolated mismatches in the passing game,” Keim said.
Much credit has gone to offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, who coerced 183 yards from scrimmage out of Johnson.
In general, Leftwich’s play-calling has been impressive over two games.
“I think it’s just the creativity, trying to establish balance,” Keim said. “The one thing that Byron really does well I think is when you see him run certain plays, there’s a rhyme and a reason for everything. It may not be for that particular play for big-play ability, but it’s something he may be setting up for a few plays later.”
Keim said safety Budda Baker’s knee injury makes him a game-time decision heading into the Raiders game on Sunday.
“I will say this: the one thing about Budda Baker is he’s tough as nails,” the general manager said.
Among the developing storylines this season has been second-year linebacker Haason Reddick, the 2017 first-round pick who was benched to start the year but has slowly grown after returning to the starting linebacking corps.
“I think Haason has continued to do some good things,” Keim said. “I think the little things that are continuing to evolve for him are reading offensive line play and run schemes and those sort of things to make sure he’s in the right gap or he’s getting over the top of blocking schemes. But again, the things you can’t teach are coverage ability and speed and athleticism and running to the football with effort, and that’s something that Haason has done.”