Keim Time: We can’t just turn switch on when season starts
The Arizona Cardinals lost for the second time this preseason, this time to the San Diego Chargers on the road by a score of 19-3.
The game was about as ugly for the Cardinals as the score would indicate, and afterwards head coach Bruce Arians talked about how “pissed” he was about the performance.
As he will every Monday throughout the season, general manager Steve Keim joined Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, and took a look back at the Chargers game as well as gave some insight into where the team is at halfway through its preseason slate.
“Before we get started, I do want to say a few things. No. 1, I just want to congratulate you and everyone at the station. As a father of four young children, the work that you guys did for P.C.H. and all the things that they do, I truly admire not only the work that you guys did, but all the hard work that everybody at P.C.H. does to keep our children healthy. And again, congratulations.”
What stood out, positive or negative, in the Chargers game?
“I think that defensively we did some good things and there were certain players that are flying around and making plays. Offensively, just didn’t seem to be able to get in a rhythm, particularly early on with our first unit. There were some guys who stood out, individually, but as a whole I think Coach Arians said it best after the game, is we need to pick up our level of urgency and there’s no doubt even though we internally feel like we have a very good football team, we can’t just go out there when the season starts and turn the switch on. We have to continue improve in practice every day, continue to use our urgency and play at a high tempo. And again, we can’t sleep walk through the preseason. I think it’s a great lesson for our players that we need to up the ante a little bit and put some good stuff on tape so that not only we feel good internally about our team moving forward, but really just to play in sync offensively and to be able to all get on the same page. Now, that being said, it’s nice as we’re starting to get back into the flow of things, talking to our trainer Tom Reed yesterday, there could be a chance that only one or two players out of our 90-man roster don’t play this week, so that’s great news to be able to get some of the guys like Tyrann (Mathieu) and Justin Bethel and Robert Nkemdiche back on the field again.”
So you’re not one of those guys who is concerned about the offense?
“No, because I know what kind of firepower we have, I know the quarterback that’s going to be running our offense, and I know the guy that’s going to be calling the plays, so I have a tremendous amount of confidence in our offense. Yet at the same time, we haven’t looked in sync in these preseason games. John Brown hasn’t played, Larry (Fitzgerald) hasn’t played — so there’s some things that, we can all make excuses but I’m not the type of guy that’s going to do that — I think it’s one of those things that people have to step up and make plays. There were some good things that I saw on tape — D.J. (Humphries) gave a pressure on the first snap, but aside from that I thought he did good things. And he certainly played better Week 2 than he did Week 1. Evan Mathis I thought had a good game and did some good things as a veteran and a steady pro, he put some good stuff on tape. And then the left side of the line certainly gives me confidence. Mike (Iupati) is playing physical and Jared Veldheer has been very consistent this preseason.”
So when you watch the tape, you are OK with your offensive line play?
“Yeah, for the most part. The two young kids, Evan Boehm and Cole Toner, continue to do good things and are steadily improving. Those are guys that I don’t see the physical part of the game being an issue, but as we all know, rookies mentally have to grow. And both of those guys are steadily getting better, and again, I think that they’ve put some good stuff on tape to at least give us some confidence that they’re going to continue to grow and get better as they develop.”
From your perspective, how successful were the joint practices with the Chargers?
“It was great to see us going against another team, to get to know their personnel and have good understanding of what their needs are, kind of some of the areas where we may need to improve. And then the relationships — Mike McCoy is a great guy and a good friend of ours; Tom Telesco. I think the fact that we all had a mutual respect for each other, kept the practices clean and it was just good work for our players to be able to compete against their guys. To have a better understanding of what kind of player Keenan Allen is, who is a guy that really impressed me. And some of the other players that I saw out there — Jason Verrett’s a very good player — it kind of helps not only you, but it helps your scouts see guys up close and personal. And again, we’re always trying to have an advantage in the scouting side of it, whether it’s seeing a guy like Jason Verrett who has great skills. Maybe not the tallest corner in the world, but as we go out to the colleges now, we understand what we’re looking at and can continue to grow as evaluators.”
How do you feel about the idea of hosting a joint practice?
“I love it. Training camp can be monotonous, as you know, and to be able to work with other teams, again, it creates a lively atmosphere and then the competitive juices start flowing. So I think it gets the most out of our players.”
Are you still talking about possible trades with the Chargers?
“We continue to have conversations. A lot of times, early in the process, people don’t pull the trigger. Generally, those kind of conversations heat up towards the end of cuts. But we’ll continue to talk to the Chargers and other teams about any possible moves.”
You were quoted as lamenting not drafting Russell Wilson; how often do you evaluate yourself?
“Every year. And that’s the learning lesson that we try to continue to convey to our scouts, is humility and to be able to go back, self-evaluate, and understand why you missed on particular players. Russell Wilson is a great learning lesson for all of us. He didn’t have the necessary height and length that you would check off the box that he was the perfect fit for the NFL, and there weren’t a lot of comps for him at the time. But, listen, I have a great deal of respect for John Schneider and the job he does in Seattle, and the fact that he made the comment that aside from height, what does Russell Wilson lack, and again, that’s a lesson for all of us that there are players out there. Tyrann Mathieu is a perfect example; Ty doesn’t have all the natural tools, maybe, that you look for in terms of size and length and that sort of thing, but he makes up for it with compensating ability: with instincts, with unusual ball skills, and the ability to play with his eyes in the slot, and the different things he does from a versatility standpoint. There are players out there that don’t always go in the first round that teach us, as evaluators, moving on through the process, what are compensating abilities and how can they overcome certain factors that they lack. I think as an evaluator, you have to continue to challenge yourself on why and where you missed.”
What comes to mind when you think about Brandon Williams?
“A competitor. A young man who is resilient from a standpoint, we all knew there was going to be some bumps in the road where he’s going to have to continue to work on playing off-man coverage, work with his eyes, all those different things. But when I watch him and he gets beat in practice or in a game, you don’t see him pound the ground with his hand; hey, he doesn’t have the ‘woe is me’ attitude. He jumps back in there and lines up and is ready to go again. But there’s no doubt there’s little areas of his game where he’s got to continue to grow and develop. Like D.J. Humphries, I think he played better in this game than he played in the first game. As we talked about last week, he’s just got to get out there and continue to play and get more snaps. When you have guys like Justin Bethel returning and you have some different things happening for you defensively, whether it’s adding guys up front, where the pass rush continues to improve. It’s going to certainly help Brandon’s transition.”
Are the bumps in Brandon Williams’ road the size you thought they’d be?
“Quite frankly, I thought it would have been a little worse. Some of the stuff he does naturally you just can’t coach. When you have a guy that has that kind of length and movement skills and natural competitiveness. So, he’s a little further along, actually, than I anticipated. But there’s no doubt that we expected that there’s going to be things he had to work on, particularly, again, the off-man stuff when people motion to him or run bunch routes. He’s going to have to continue to get better with his eyes and anticipation. But again, you can’t coach size, speed and physicality. Those are things that a guy just naturally has to have, and Brandon has those tools.”
What are the chances we see Robert Nkemdiche Sunday against the Texans?
“I think there’s a good chance. He’s a guy that sustained that injury, and it could have been much worse. But a guy like him, when you see his body type, I think it’s tough to hurt Robert. And he has worked his butt off in the rehabilitation process, which has been good to see, knowing that he’s committed, that he’s willing to do all the work to get better. I talked to him at length yesterday, and he’s really excited to get back out there. He’s certainly one of the guys in the preseason, and I think all of us would agree, we couldn’t wait to see him on the field and contributing. But I think there’s a good chance that we’ll see him on Sunday. Not sure if it will be one of those things where he’ll just play a small role because of the injury, but he’s been working hard with our training staff and again, I can’t wait to see him out there contributing.”
What do you want to see from the team this week?
“I think this week, more than anything, because of the way we played in the first couple preseason games, just to be in sync on offense, to play in rhythm, to iron out some of the issues we had in the red zone. More than anything, too, is to eliminate the turnovers. I don’t think there’s any secret in the first couple preseason games, the interceptions certainly has to be minimized. And I don’t think that any of our quarterbacks played particularly well this past week.”