GM Keim: Number of new Cardinals impressed in 1st preseason action
There’s no doubt about it.
Kyler Murray looked sharp in his preseason debut.
Connecting on all of his throws, though one was ruled incomplete — more on that later — the rookie signal caller looked at home in the team’s new-look offense.
But while the early returns on the game have been primarily focused the QB, Murray wasn’t the only Cardinal to show his worth Thursday night.
With the dust now settled from the team’s first preseason win, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim touched on a few standouts while joining Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.
“There’s the good, the bad and the ugly like you have in every preseason game,” Keim said Friday morning. “I think the one thing I was excited about was the way our football team competed, and some of the young guys I felt did a lot of good things last night throughout the entire game.”
One of those young guys was rookie wide receiver KeeSean Johnson.
Although he was the culprit on Murray’s “incompletion” — Johnson stepped out of bounds and didn’t establish himself before catching the pass — the rookie wideout impressed the GM in other facets of his game.
“Unfortunately, KeeSean stepped out of bounds, but the one interesting thing as I watched the tape this morning, KeeSean ran a phenomenal route,” Keim said. “His ability to start and stop with suddeness — he stuck his foot in the ground and the corner drifted, fell and stumbled about eight yards.
“He ran a great route but unfortunately stepped out of bounds.”
The sixth-round pick out of Fresno State seems to have gained trust with his quarterbacks early on as he was targeted four times in Thursday’s win, tied for second most on the team. He reeled in two of the four, recording 29 yards, highlighted by a 23-yard reception.
The rookie’s outing, even with the misstep, is another positive for Johnson, who has seen considerable time with the first team, jostling for reps with vets Kevin White, Trent Sherfield, Damiere Byrd and Pharoh Cooper.
Learning from an All-Pro like Larry Fitzgerald only boosts Johnson’s status with the team as he grows into an NFL player.
Heading down to the trenches, another rookie caught Keim’s eye.
“The one young guy who I thought really looked good was Lamont Gaillard, our later-round pick out of the University of Georgia,” Keim said of the guard/center. “He’s been very impressive in camp and last night I thought he played extremely well.”
Gaillard’s durability could be a big factor on an offensive line that has already dealt with injuries this season.
In three years as a starter at Georgia, Gaillard played in at least 13 games a season, with his most being in 2017 (15 games).
Gaillard could also use his tools to improve the run game, as he was a part of an O-line that had four different 1,000-yard rushers.
But what about some of the other Cardinals newcomers on the line?
“For the most part, I felt the guys had a pretty clean pocket,” Keim said of the offensive line as a whole. “There’s no secret that we’ve got to stay healthy up front. I do like the physicality that [J.R] Sweezy and Marcus Gilbert have brought to our offensive line.”
They may not be rookies, but the two linemen are getting their feet wet in a new system under head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Much like Gaillard, Sweezy’s ability to stay on the field could pay dividends in an offense looking to take the NFL by storm.
In six seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, Sweezy started in 78 contests, playing in a total of 88 games.
On the other side of the coin, Gilbert represents an injury-prone vet looking to prove he can make it a full season. In eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the starting right tackle has two full seasons under his belt. The final two with the Steelers, however, saw the lineman play in just 12 games.
But from 2013-16, Gilbert started and played in at least 13 games a year.
Granted it’s early on in preseason, but the play of some of the new faces on the team has been promising as Arizona looks to turn the page from 2018.