Cardinals GM Steve Keim using rest of 2018 to evaluate youth

Nov 30, 2018, 9:16 AM | Updated: 10:15 am
(AP photo)...
(AP photo)
(AP photo)

The Arizona Cardinals have gradually introduced young players to NFL action this season.

Center Mason Cole stepped in as the starter Week 1 after veteran A.Q. Shipley went down with an ACL injury. Quarterback Josh Rosen took three weeks to see the field as Sam Bradford scuffled in front of him. Receiver Christian Kirk was simply good enough to earn a starting gig off the bat.

At this point, it’s clear the Cardinals will continue affording other young players opportunities just to get a live look at them.

General manager Steve Keim believes that is one of few positives for 2-9 team with five games left.

This week, rookie seventh-round pick Korey Cunningham will slide to the right tackle spot after making two promising starts on the opposite side of the line.

“I think he’s a guy that I would have thought … would have been inactive most of the year, (a) guy that’s a seventh-round pick and we sort of viewed him as a developmental prospect,” Keim said. “But when we threw him to the wolves, so to speak, under the big lights, it wasn’t too big for him. There are some things he’s got to clean up technique-wise. But he’s competitive, he’s got the size and movement skills you’re looking for at that position.”

Kicker Zane Gonzalez, a second-year pro, will debut as the starting kicker Sunday with veteran Phil Dawson placed on the injured reserve list, ending his season.

Keim also said linebackers Dennis Gardeck and Zeke Turner could earn more looks in the coming weeks.

Their opportunity could even come Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. MIKE linebacker Josh Bynes was sent to the injured reserve Monday, while fellow starters Deone Bucannon and Haason Reddick have appeared on the injury report.

Arizona’s youth movement comes as Keim self-evaluates a roster that has under-performed compared to the expectations.

Keim doesn’t operate like the Cardinals have underachieved, however.

“I certainly see that there are a lot of holes that I need to fix. That’s how I have to look at this team. I can’t look at it that we’re overly-talented and that we have all the pieces in place,” he said.

“There are some different stats that blow you away. The fact that’s we’re number two in the NFL in sacks, yet at the same time have really struggled to stop the run. There are a lot of different things going on that I’m trying to put my thumb on that you struggle with,” Keim added. “Collectively as a football team … we just haven’t played well together in my opinion. That’s something you’d really like to see improve.”

Here are the 20 players on the 53-man roster who are no more than two years removed from college (starters in bold):

QB: Josh Rosen (Rookie)

WR: Christian Kirk (R)

WR: Chad Williams

WR: Trent Sherfield (R)

RB: Chase Edmonds (R)

TE: Ricky Seals-Jones

TE: Darrell Daniels

RT: Korey Cunningham (R)

C: Mason Cole (R)

RT: Zack Golditch (R)

RG: Colby Gossett(R)

LT: Will Holden

S: Budda Baker

S: Rudy Ford

LB: Haason Reddick

LB: Dennis Gardeck (R)

LB: Zeke Turner (R)

DE: Cameron Malveaux

KR: T.J. Logan

K: Zane Gonzalez

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