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’s 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:
What stood out to you?
When I went back and watched the tape this morning I think the story line that probably excited me the most was the contributions of our rookie draft class. When you look at J.J. Nelson, David Johnson with the touchdown, Rodney Gunter had a huge sack for us and of course Markus Golden with the sack and the strip—huge for us, on national TV and really made big contributions, which again for a bunch of young guys I think that that’s probably what stood out the most.
What do you say about Carson Palmer and how he’s playing right now?
He’s what makes everything go for us. There’s no doubt about that. For me it was a tale of two halves. I think early on Carson maybe tried to force a little bit and at the same time I don’t know that our offensive line matched their defensive line’s physicality, their level of intensity. Yet in the second half I felt like we did. We started to run the ball more effectively which obviously made our offense go. Early on, two times, we turned Geno Atkins loose, there were a couple guys who got beat physically in one-on-one situations, but again the level of intensity in the second half certainly was cranked up a notch.
There wasn’t much mention of Tyrann Mathieu and Bobby Massie. Is that because they played so well that you didn’t need to talk about them?
Well in Ty’s situation they didn’t test him a lot. As far as Bobby, I thought Bobby played solid. There was a couple times where it felt like he overset and gave up some inside penetration. But I said early last week that they have a talented team. Across the board up front they have some guys who can rush the pass or create pressure who are physical. There was no point in time during the week or even last night that I knew it was going to be a cakewalk. I certainly felt like we would have our hands full.
What kind of season is Patrick Peterson having from your standpoint?
I will say this. Last year some of the concerns with Patrick, and we all know Pat’s one of the most talented corners in the league, I think there were some issues with consistency last year. And I think a lot of it had to do, I think, because of his playing weight and that sort of thing. This year, he came back in phenomenal shape – probably the best shape he’s been in as a pro – and his level of consistency he’s taken to a whole different level. His mindset, his competitiveness…he’s been phenomenal this year. Some of the stuff that he does, for fans or for me, when you see a ball caught for eight yards on him and you know we get frustrated, we put him in some really tough positions. The type of man with no help over the top that we ask him to play, it’s really a testament to him and his work ethic and just the fact that he’s a true pro, what he’s done for us this year. Last night you know he had an ankle injury. I don’t have any news on that just yet. I’m assuming he’ll be sore today but I’ll know a little bit more after he gets his MRI and I talk it over with Tom Reed and our medical staff.
What does a GM think in the fourth quarter when you see that 14-point lead disappear?
We were in a couple different situations where we didn’t convert if we had to kick a field goal. Fourteen points isn’t enough against a team like the Bengals. Watching them on tape, they’ve got a bunch of weapons with A.J. and Marvin and Giovani Bernard, some of the stuff that he can do out of the backfield. So they put a tremendous amount of stress on your defense and they can score quickly. Andy Dalton does a great job of getting the ball out quickly. I know James Bettcher did I nice job last night dialing up on pressure, but at the same time when you dial up that much pressure there’s going to be times where you leave yourself susceptible to some big plays. Obviously they got some mismatches with Bernard on Kevin Minter and they hit us with a nice screen game on an all-out blitz so that’s the NFL game, they get paid too.
Does a general manager think of playoffs?
No, I’m thinking about the San Francisco 49ers. It’s like somebody asked me on a radio show last week about the accomplishments of the organization so far and have we arrived…we haven’t arrived. We haven’t won any championships yet. Our focus and our mindset is on winning the NFC West and it starts next week against the San Francisco 49ers. I think last year was a great lesson for us when we started off 9-1 and saw things quickly crumble away due to injuries and those sort of things. So you’ve got to take each week, each day, every game one at a time and I know our guys will be focused on San Francisco next week.
The attention is going to keep coming. Do you embrace the new national spotlight or do you hate it?
I think as a Cardinals fan or a Cardinals employee that you have to embrace it considering where we’ve come from. When I’ve talked about years and years of coming into Phoenix as a scout and seeing very little Cardinals paraphernalia around and to see this type of fan base grow the way they have and to see the stadium as energized as it was last night, seeing the club section completely full at least from my vantage point, it gives you a great sense of pride to be a Cardinal. That’s what I’ve always said, that the wins and losses are one thing but to see this fan base grow and to see the sense of pride in this community, to me is really what this is all about.
You built this team. Where do you need to get better and where are you confident in your talent right now?
It’s funny, I was talking about that this weekend. It’s one of those things where you hear someone like John Gruden, who I have a lot of respect for, and some other people come on national media and talk about how either we’re one of the most talented teams or the most talented team in the NFL yet at the same time I sit and I look at my board with the depth chart and I look at it and all I see is holes, areas where we need to improve, where we need to get better, where I need to do a better job. I think that goes back to being a perfectionist. I think there’s no question that you’d like to get to a point where you don’t have to manufacture that type of pressure consistently and you can have some guys who get off the edge and disrupt the quarterback. Last night it was nice to see Dwight do the inside spin and to do some of those other things, and he’s been a great pickup for us obviously but we have to find a way to be able to get more pressure off the edge, and we’ve got to do a little bit better job of putting ourselves in matchup situations, defensively and offensively just the consistency protecting the quarterback. There’s no doubt in my mind that we do have the weapons to be a force offensively, yet at the same time if we don’t have the right communication or we get beat up front everything falls apart.
If Patrick Peterson’s ankle isn’t that great, do you need to go after some cornerback depth this week?
We have Robert Nelson who we elevated from the practice squad and I think he’s the type of guy that if he gets an opportunity, he’ll do a nice job. He’s played some real football, not just practice squad football, he’s played some real football for Cleveland last year and the guy’s got a really good skillset athletically. I think he just needs an opportunity. We’ll obviously look at the waiver wire, we’ll go back and look at our short list and see if there’s any guys worth bringing in, but again that’s too early now, not knowing the significance of Pat’s injury.
Did you see Matt Barkley come running out last night in the towels?
I didn’t see it and I heard about it and I’m probably happy that I didn’t see it (laughs).
That tells me that there is a chemistry that is forming. Can you talk about what is going on inside that locker room?
No doubt. That’s the thing, the confidence and the trust and the loyalty that these guys have for each other has really become infectious and I don’t think you can put a value on that in the National Football League. It’s one thing to have a talented roster but when you have 53 guys walk out of the locker room at one time and they have that type of confidence and trust and loyalty and respect for each other, man that’s a powerful, powerful tool. Any time you’re looking at your roster and you may have some holes or areas that you feel like you need to improve, when you have that type of confidence in your locker room that can overcome a lot of limitations.
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