Steve Keim applauded the "gritty" win the Cardinals pulled off in Green Bay last week, knowing that it wasn't necessarily pretty. He liked how, in that environment and with so many rookies playing, the Cardinals took a step forward as they head into a home game against the Lions. For the final four games, Keim -- as he eyes 2019 -- wants to see what players step up and "show me they want a job" next season.
The Cardinals are not in a great place at 3-9. But the General Manager isn't looking at it that way next year. He can't.
"If it's a rebuild next year," Keim said during his appearance on the "Doug and Wolf" show on 98.7, Arizona's Sports Station, "you won't be having this radio show."
The Cardinals will have a "a significant amount of cap room for the first time in my tenure," Keim said. (Without knowing exactly what the salary cap will be yet, estimates put the Cards' 2019 cap space at north of $70 million.) With a rookie quarterback on his first contract to build around, Keim said the Cardinals will have the flexibility to push hard in the free-agent market.
-- On the offensive line, Keim called rookie tackle Korey Cunningham "a bright spot," and the Cardinals are evaluating Cunningham closely as the season winds down to see where he might fit in 2019 and if he makes sense as a potential starter. "He has shown me a lot to get excited about," Keim said.
-- D.J. Humphries will be a starter in 2019, most likely. But with another season ending on injured reserve -- the only season Humphries has finished healthy was 2015, when he was inactive every game as a rookie -- Keim said he had a talk with his former first-round pick. "As I told him the other day, availability is everything," Keim said. Newly signed Joe Barksdale is another candidate for a starting job going forward, having started for many years with the Chargers.
-- As for the rest of the offensive line, "if you told me back in late August we were starting this week with a rookie left tackle (Cunningham), a rookie left guard (Colby Gossett) and a rookie center (Mason Cole), I think you'd probably wonder who is going home in a body bag," Keim quipped. "That's not the case. Those guys have done a nice job."
-- Keim was disappointed that wide receiver Christian Kirk was hurt, and believes that if the Cardinals had a better record, Kirk would have been in the discussion for offensive rookie of the year.
-- Like his team, Keim described Josh Rosen's work in Green Bay as "gritty." "He's continuing to evolve in many ways," Keim added. Keim, like offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, doesn't see the major inaccuracy issues others might, once all the other factors come in (protection, receiving corps.) It's seeing open receivers more often is where Keim would like to see Rosen improve the most.
Keim praised Rosen not just for some of the things the QB has done on the field, but for the work he puts in to prepare. Keim called Rosen "a true gym rat," noting he is one of the first players in the building and last out as he studies. Keim said as much as Rosen might be an intellectual, he is also a player with the desire to be great. (The last part is important; one of the knocks on one-time first-round pick Matt Leinart was that he wasn't willing to put in the time to prepare like then-teammate Kurt Warner did.)
"(Rosen) is certainly the guy we're going to ride with," Keim said. "He has shown everything to me, internally, that you would look for in a franchise quarterback."