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Steve Keim Time: Maturity and leadership in the locker room helps in getting through flex-schedule changes

Arizona Cardinals' David Johnson (31) tries to break past Philadelphia Eagles' Brandon Graham (55) and Walter Thurmond (26) during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
LISTEN: Steve Keim, 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’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, which follows a division clinching  40-17 win  over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football.

I’m kind of glade with the way it is shaping up for the Cardinals. You clinch a playoff spot last week, this week you clinch the NFC West, and now playing at home against the Green Bay Packers, you can clinch that first-round bye and the No. 2 seed. Do  you like the way it’s unfolding right now?

“I like the fact that we control our own destiny. Every week we talk about it internally about how to beat this team and beat that team, really at the end of the day none of that matters. As long as we continue to win out and control our own destiny, good things will happen. It was nice to see a complete football game from our club. A lot of guys played well and stood out and it was a great win for us.”

I realize that you put your foot off a plane three hours ago, but everyone is wondering Tyrann, Tyrann Tyrann. What’s the latest you know about Mathieu and what’s the latest he can suit it up against Green Bay?

“What I know is nothing different than what you guys know. He will have a MRI this morning and if that reveals any damage or not to the knee, we will keep our fingers crossed. He is such a valuable piece to this defense, to this organization and he’s been a special guy to me and for what he brings to the locker room and how he’s changed his life and all of the great things he’s done for this organization.”

Are you at all concerned for Carson Palmer’s finger or the shot that David (Johnson) took to his leg?

“No. I think those guys will be fine. It’s more day-to-day and limited stuff. Carson will bounce back and tape the finger up. He said he was good to go after the game and of course David took a shot and I think it scared him more than anything. Taking a shot to the knee and he was able to to come back and continue to play at a high level. So I think both of those guys are going to be fine.”

Steve, what are you doing up this early?

“Well, I didn’t go to bed. I just got done watching the tape and running on fumes. I’m sure I will crash at some point. But just running on fumes and excited about the way we played and just watched the tape and seeing how our offensive line played. I thought that was one of the better games in recent memory with the way we displaced the line of scrimmage. Bobby Massie probably played one of his better games. I thought Mike Iupati was extremely dominate and physical at the point of attack and A.Q Shipley played an outstanding game in my opinion.”

I thought it was interesting what you said about running on fumes. As your organization grows in national popularity with the things like NBC and getting flexed now twice into Sunday Night Football, it can really screw up preparation. How have you guys have had to adjust as a team to a great problem to have?

“I think it starts with the maturity and leadership in our locker room. We have a great group of guys down there. With older players, younger players and just watching the tape and seeing some of these rookies stand out. It makes me think about, not only have they stepped up and answered the bell, but the reason why they are having success, is because they have learned how to become pros. The reason why they have learned how to become pros is because early in the season, they have veterans teaching them. You have guys teaching them like Markus Golden and Rodney Gunter and David Johnson and again JJ Nelson. Small school guys who are giving us great contributions because they have learned how to become pros quickly. They have learned that through guys like Larry (Fitzgerald) Carson (Palmer) and all those sort of things. That gives me a great sense of pride and I know that this team is going to stay focused, week in and week out.”

In your wildest dreams, did you ever expect David Johnson to be this productive?

“Well I would be a remiss if I didn’t tell you it was a pleasant surprise, but all of these qualities you see on tape is things we liked about him coming out (of college). The first tape I watched of him this past spring was against Iowa where he completely dominated the game — both in the run game and in the passing game. I think he had over 100 yards receiving and a hundred yards rushing. You saw his skill set. Then he went to the Senior Bowl and had a great week there. We were fortunate enough that he lasted until the third round. Because when you look at his height, weight and speed and his production and the flashes of production. Again he’s a super mature kid and has really worked his tale off and not only has improved his game overall, but really in the protection game. He’s done a fantastic job.”

D.J. Swearinger steps in for Rashad Johnson and it’s another example of a Dwight Freeney type of players you are able to grab  in the middle of the season or in a Chris Johnson case, at the beginning of the season. What’s the key to get new players accumulated as quickly as the Cardinals do?

“Well I think it’s two things. I think it’s identifying the right guys and there’s nobody that does a better job than our scouting department. We have a coaching staff that is fearless. And when I say fearless, they are willing to take guys off the street, work them out and sign them on a Tuesday and play them on Sunday. D.J. looked good last night in playing with quickness and intimidation. Obviously we knew he was aggressive.  So guys continue to step up in different spots. Josh Marrow was excellent last night, Deone (Bucannon) played a great game last night. That’s what makes a team, is when you have different guys step up in different weeks and continue to play at a high level.”

When you watch the film, have you ever seen Carson Palmer play the quarterback position for the Cardinals at higher level?

“No, some of the throws that he is making is mind-boggling. You see the way he can drop it in a bucket and the anticipation that he’s throwing with, and his confidence and his ability to throw with placement and touch is at an all-time high. Unfortunately we did a disservice to him because we had multiple drops, so his production could’ve been off the charts.”

Where are your concerns, even though you are a division champion?

“We’ll just continue to stay healthy, and hopefully we can stay healthy in the process that we get some of these guys back like Andre Ellington this week. Hopefully we can get him back and continue to keep our depth through the stretch. Then as we have been talking about to try and generate some sort of a pass rush. Last night, Markus (Golden) gave us some rush, but we need a little more consistency at winning the one-on-one situations.”

Steve, any theories about John Brown and the fact that he dropped not one but three balls? It was so unthinkable because he’s played so well and his hands have been so reliable. Any theories as to why he had the drops?

“I don’t know, maybe he was trying to press. He’s from Homestead, Florida so I could have made the excuse that he can’t catch in the cold but I can’t say that too much because Pittsburg State in Kansas is no tropical paradise. That really isn’t an excuse and he just needs to become more consistent. He does a great job on the routes and taking the top off. The first play of the game should’ve been a touchdown. But he bounced back and made some plays for us when he needed and so did Michael Floyd.”

You have always said that Bruce Arians is always in charge of playing time, but you know the scenario, if you win against Green Bay, and if Carolina beats Atlanta, you’re locked in. You can’t be the No. 1 seed and you can’t fall to the No. 3 seed. What are your theories for playing time in Week 17 if you have locked things up?

“Coach and I have mainly discussed it and I’m sure he will touch on it at some point. I would rather not discuss it until we are in that position, and I don’t want to jinx us. But we will have a good plan moving forward. I promise you that.”

How many weapons is too many weapons? If you look at it right now between J.J. Nelson obviously, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd is starting to make the circus catch routine. I’m amazed. I don’t know if there is another team in the NFL that has as many weapons as this team does. Can that ever be a bad thing?

“No. Some people would say it’s champagne problems. It’s a good problem to have. Bruce does a great job of trying to get different people the ball. Obviously with the emergence of David Johnson. He’s so valuable because of his flexibility of not only being able to carry the ball, but he is a great receiver out of the backfield and so that puts a lot of stress on the defense. When you are building a team, that is the goal in mind is to have the right type of depth and the right type of players that when called upon they step up and make plays.”

 

 

 

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