Following a 34-24 loss to the Houston Texans last night at NRG Stadium, big decisions have to be made.
Tuesday marks the day the Cardinals have to shave their roster down to the required 75 players. An ongoing theme about this team has been the good problem of overwhelming depth, and having to cut talented players.
As he does every Monday throughout the NFL season, Steve Keim joined Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM and gave his thoughts on how the preseason has gone, and his process on having to cut players.
Is this the worst part of your job (cuts)?
“Yeah there’s no doubt man, it’s a tough morning, particularly when you have to tell a young man his dream is over, or at least for the time being his dream is over as an Arizona Cardinal. It comes close to home for me being a guy who dreamed of playing in the National Football League, as a guy who was an overachiever, so I get it, and like I said it’s a tough morning for all of us.”
Do you know who is getting cut right now to make room for the 75 man roster?
“We have most of the guys in place that we’ll release some point this morning. We have a staff meeting at 8:30, we’ll get an update from our trainers and physicians on the medical side of it which will help, some point early afternoon we will be down to 75.”
How do you philosophically look at today? Do you look to cut veterans or the younger guys?
“Well I think it’s a combination, anytime you’re in this position, I just try to remind myself to try to be fair. Whether it’s a veteran player looking for another opportunity or a young guy who may get a chance somewhere else. Yet at the same, we have a preseason game to get through. I think you all know that Coach Arians doesn’t play a lot of starters in preseason game number four, so we got to make sure we can get through Thursday night and giving people the best opportunity moving forward.”
Do you look across the league at some of the names being cut, and is there any interest?
“Well there’s constant conversation between myself, other GMs, our pro department and other pro departments, so it’s constant. This week is a really busy week for us in the personnel department as we scour through the waiver wire looking for all the available players. The mindset is, are there players out there that not only help us from a depth standpoint, but can make the roster, and if there are, we will be proactive and aggressive as we have been in the past. Now it’s a little tougher because I think our roster has improved over the last three years yet, at the same time, if there’s a player worth trading for we’ll certainly take advantage.”
What did you see yesterday that got you excited and what did you see as a concern?
“Just overall throughout the preseason the one thing I thought about last night as I watched the film on the plane is there have been some players who have stepped up and played really well this preseason. Yet at the same time the one concern for me is I don’t think we’ve played well collectively as a team, particularly on offense. There are reasons for that and you can make excuses and say John Brown and Larry (Fitzgerald) haven’t played with Carson (Palmer) a lot during the preseason. David Johnson has had minimal touches, although I thought he played excellent yesterday. So you know there (are) reasons we may not be in sync, but I’m not one to make excuses. I just think we haven’t played great football offensively as a group collectively. Now there have been guys who stood out for me. I thought last night from a protection standpoint, it was very good. There was one time Evan Mathis got beat on the right side on a one-on-one situation. There were two times there was a little leakage because of defensive line games on the right side yesterday as well, but for the most part I thought offensively up front we protected well. D.J. (Humphries) played his best game. The one thing he brings to the table is a physicality; he has been excellent in the run game. His ability to roll his hips and finish at the point of attack, I think was a big reason why you saw yesterday when we committed to it we were able to run the ball better than we have in the past. D.J. continues to grow and improve as well as our corner Brandon Williams, I thought he played a solid game. I think coach said it last night, I thought Justin Bethel looked a little rusty. He’s played minimal snaps and practice snaps this preseason and I think it showed yesterday, just the fact getting his eyes in the right place getting his head around in coverage, those are thing he has to continue to improve on.”
What is your level of concern about this preseason?
“Again I think that as a perfectionist you want to see execution and the thing that concerns me is turning the football over, that’s put us in a tough position. We haven’t played a lot of our starters together and again that’s a team decision and we’ve come out for the most part so far healthy, which is obviously a bright spot but there’s always a level of concern from my standpoint just about different positions and how much more depth can we add, how can we get better in certain areas. There’s always a level of concern. I don’t think our quarterbacks have played particularly well in the preseason. I don’t think that’s hard to see, but again, once we get everyone on the field together, coach will have these guys ready to go. But again, there have been some guys who have stepped up and played exceptional this preseason. Andre Ellington comes to mind. I think he’s done some excellent things. Yesterday a couple of young players continued to get better, Evan Boehm and Cole Toner have continued to impress me as young guys. It was fun to see Robert Nkemdiche out there for the first time. I didn’t see a lot of pressures from Robert, but in the run game, I thought he was very disruptive and showed some of the reasons why we drafted him number one overall.”
How did Brandon Williams play?
“I thought pretty good, I thought he did a nice job with his hands in press. I thought he played fast, I thought he played physical. I think there were one or two balls caught on him, which again if you don’t get pressure it’s going to happen, but I didn’t see any glaring issues and I think he’s continuing to grow and get better mentally and with his eyes.”
Where are you from an injury standpoint, and how’s Carson Palmer?
“I think he’s fine, he was in good spirits last night and I talked to him. Mike Jenkins will be the real concern, and again I’ll find out more because we don’t have a chance to MRI guys on the road to find out what’s wrong, and so I’ll find out a little bit more this morning about him and a couple other players.”
Would you agree the other running backs are not as explosive as David Johnson?
“Well I think Andre’s explosiveness brings a different skill set to the table, but there’s no doubt that David is a workhorse-type back for us. His combination of size and speed and physicality makes him a guy that can be a threat in all different areas and I think some of the things he did yesterday, I mean that lateral jump cut he made on the goal line, to watch that last night on tape on the plane, to be able to do that, to stop, and restart and laterally jump, 230-pounds, is really impressive, and his ability to lower and finish before he got to the goal line just showed some of the things he can do with the football in his hands, and we all know what kind of mismatch he can be in the passing game. He’s a guy we’re excited about. I don’t think there’s any question he’ll be on the field quite a bit this year, particularly as a feature player in this offense.”
When do you anticipate the next round of cuts, when do you want to be at 53, and how does your week play out?
“We won’t waste a lot of time. If a guy is not going to make our team, there will be a number of guys we will release on Friday and then that’ll carry over to Saturday, and then by Sunday we would hope to have the final 53 completely set. At minimum you’d like to have all 10 practice squad members in place by Monday, so we’ll be ready to go for the first bonus day of practice next week.”
Do you have an idea who the 53 will be at this point?
“Yes, coach (Arians) and I had a long discussion last night on the plane, although again you know where there are opportunities, whether it’s via trade or the waiver wire, we’ll look into those possibilities. It’s a busy week for us because you know you’re talking about 90 players on 32 teams and then all of a sudden you’re talking about cutting to 75 and to 53, so it gives you a minimal amount of time to watch all this tape and be on top of things. Our pro department has done a great job, led by Terry McDonough and Quentin Harris, and those guys getting the ready lists and practice squad ready lists in a state where we can hit it running once it happens because it goes fast.”
When you make cuts, how many people are in that room?
“We’ll grab the players in the locker room and then they’ll have an opportunity to talk to myself and coach and the position coaches as well. It’s an emotional time because you develop these kinds of relationships and every player that’s been here for us work their tails off. You know Wolf as a former player, this isn’t a happy day for anybody. You see the scouting assistant coming to grab you in the locker room, not only is it tough on the players, but the veteran players, they don’t like seeing it either. We’ll get these guys on an individual basis and just relay our thoughts to the players and thank them for their time and their services.”