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Steve Keim Time: Team is in a good spot, could play better

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer prepares to throw in the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)
LISTEN: Steve Keim, Arizona Cardinals general manager

Sometimes, it’s best to go straight to the man in charge.

And when it comes to the Arizona Cardinals’ roster, that man is Steve Keim.

Arizona’s general manager since January 2013, Keim has overseen a transformation that has led to 21 wins over two seasons. His deft touch with the draft and free agency has led to the team becoming a contender in the NFC.

Lucky for us, Keim happens to be a weekly guest on the Doug and Wolf Show, right here on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. And since what he has to say is important, we thought it would be a good idea to put his words into print, allowing you to read what the GM is thinking. So, without further ado, here’s this week’s edition:

How does it feel to be 6-2 heading into the bye week?

“It feels good. Would I say that I’m satisfied? No. But at the same time, I’m extremely proud of the record. Six and two, we’re in pretty good position. We just have to continue to grow and build on what we’ve started. There’s no doubt that the second half of the season is going to pose some major challenges, but as a competitor that’s the type of challenges you want.”

Did you learn more about your team the way they started the first half or the way they started the second half (in Cleveland)?

“The second half, and it’s like we talk about all the time, everybody faces adversity at some point, whether it’s on a particular play, a particular half, and to me it’s how you respond to adversity. It shows the type of team and the character you have in your locker room. When you’re down 20-7, you’re turning the ball over at the rate we were turning it over, you could easily go south quickly. There’s no doubt that coach gave them the right type of pep talk at halftime and those guys came out swinging.”

So you’re not at all concerned over the rough start to the game?

“No. I know the type of men we have in our locker room, and the good news is being 6-2, we certainly have not played our best football yet and there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll hit our stride in the second half of the season. And a lot of times in the NFL, the teams that get hot in the second half are the ones that finish strong.”

It seems like the team is turning the ball over more of late, when is it time to worry?

“Well, I think through self-evaluation you know that you have to grow and build on some of the issues that you’ve seen, and that was turning the football over. You have to hold onto the rock and you can’t throw interceptions. The good news and the different part about this game compared to the other two that we lost when we turned the football over was our third-down efficiency. We were actually 81 percent on third down, which to me is amazing. And then we were strong in the red zone, we finished. So those were the things to me that sort of offset those turnovers, but there’s no doubt that in the second half of the season we have to clean that up.”

Seemed like J.J. Nelson played well, how did he look on film?

“No doubt about it. Not only can the guy take the top off and really uncover in the vertical game, his ability to stop and start and the way he ran his routes with preciseness, to me, I thought was excellent. For your first catch in the NFL to be a 38-yard strike where essentially the defender had his one arm hooked, and he makes a one-armed catch, to me, was amazing. So he stepped up and had his opportunity under the big lights, and to me he delivered.”

Carson Palmer is tied for the league lead in TD passes, what is different for him this year?

“I think there’s a number of reasons. He’s always been bought in, year three in B.A.’s system certainly helps, I think the number of weapons we’ve surrounded him with, we’ve improved the offensive line. So I think there’s quite a few things that go into that, but he is as dialed in as I’ve ever seen him. I’ve always said if you give Carson time he can hurt you because of his ball placement, accuracy and touch, and some of the throws he makes on tape have been absolutely amazing. And again, some of the guys that have stepped up around him — the receiving core, the backs that we have coming out of the backfield — two guys that were exceptional yesterday, to me, were Michael Floyd making some of the big plays down field, and the one guy who doesn’t get enough credit who is really starting to come into his own is Jermaine Gresham. He had two big third-down conversions for us. And the one thing that Jermaine does is his attitude and toughness sets the tone at the point of attack. He’s a guy in the run game that can go against some of the 290, 300-pound defensive ends and get movement at the point and create lanes that give Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington a chance to be so successful. And to have a 30-year-old running back who is second in the NFL in rushing, and I think you look back and this is the third-best average C.J. has had in his career since 2009, which is amazing, I think he’s averaging 4.8 a carry. We’ve got a lot of guys playing well right now.”

Is Michael Floyd making his way back?

“With Mike it was never something where we were down on him. I think it’s just one of those things where we have a lot of weapons and he needed to get his opportunities. He had the hand injury in camp, which set him back a little bit, but Michael is playing good football and there’s no doubt that he’s determined to have a great year.”

Does Kevin Minter come off the field much anymore?

“No, and he’s doing a better job in coverage. The one thing, I think we all know that Kevin, the best thing that he does is play downhill and physical. He got some shots on the quarterback yesterday, which obviously disrupted some of Josh McCown’s throws. He’s doing a nice job setting the front, setting the defense, playing alongside Deone Bucannon, those two make a nice match.”

How do you want players coached when they can’t let a QB keep running but can’t hit them late for fear of a personal foul?

“That’s tough. You have to teach your players to play aggressive yet at the same time play smart. I know a few weeks ago Carson slid, I don’t know which game it was but that didn’t get called. There’s room for error and you just have to teach your guys to play smart and play disciplined. And that goes back to the little things. Dotting your I’s, crossing your T’s, and doing all the right things in practice and our coaches do a great job keeping these guys ready to play.”

The trade deadline is Tuesday, are you in conversations with other teams about potential deals?

“We’ve been active in talks and have had some conversations, certainly nothing imminent at this point. But listen, any time you have the trade deadline, you have contract negotiations,  we’re going to be proactive and aggressive. Yet at the same time, it’s always tough to pull off a deal — it’s never easy. A lot of times it’s one-sided, teams want more value and we’re in a position where we feel pretty good about our roster so I don’t think there’s any need to panic.”

At the same time, most feel like you could use a pass rusher. How high a pick would you give up to get one?

“Here’s the problem: not many people have great pass rushers. If you have a pass rusher out there that’s available, one of two things — either something’s wrong with him, he’s making too much money or for whatever reason he may have some off the field issues. Because people generally don’t just give up on guys who can rush the passer or have speed and can cover on the perimeter. So I am very wary of just going ahead and panicking and making decisions based on emotion.”

Dwight Freeney had another sack Sunday.

“He did. He’s done a nice job and he continues to get his legs under him. Again, a guy who did not go through training camp or the preseason and continues to flash. He still has that old-school rush ability where he can go speed to power, he can give you that inside spin, so we’ll continue to hope to get more out of Dwight. I know he’s happy and excited to be here and he’s really involved and talking to Coach Bettcher about different things he can do schematically. I would look to see not only with him, but getting Alex Okafor back from injury, which I expect him to potentially be back for the Seattle game.”

How did your contract extension talks go over the last week?

“They are always good. It’s a fluid process. The one thing about it is that there are five or six guys that we have been in talks with, and that’s something that we do constantly. Looking at market analysis, looking at different comparisons in the league. And the one thing that at least my philosophy has always been, to get a deal done we would have to do something that is beneficial for not only the team, but for the player to be fair and reward them. And sometimes that’s difficult to do. Sometimes guy want to get to free agency to see what their market value is. But we’ll continue to be proactive and aggressive, we just have to be smart.”

What’s your schedule over the bye?

“Just going to get out and do a little scouting and then try to be able to get back and be Daddy for the weekend and spend a little time with the kids. But I want to try to get out this week and I’m going to leave tomorrow morning and go see some players this week here on the West Coast.”

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