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Keim: Cunningham possible 2019 starter, Nkemdiche's uncertain future

Steve Keim doesn't see the last three games as the Cardinals playing out the string. To the contrary, "you could almost argue the situation we are in, it is more important than ever" because it can allow the GM and his staff to evaluate all the unknowns on the roster in real time heading into the offseason of free agency and the draft, Keim said Friday on the "Doug and Wolf" Show on 98.7, Arizona's Sports Station.

One player Keim noted again was rookie tackle Korey Cunningham, who is playing on the left side right now but who would have a future on the right side given the return of D.J. Humphries. Asked if Cunningham could be a starter in 2019, Keim said "with the small body of work, he is."

"He is one of the guys who, it is critical for us to understand where he is at," Keim said. "If he is a guy who can possibly step in at right tackle, that eliminates some headaches for us in free agency or the draft. So far, for a rookie who wasn't even invited to the combine, he has really done some good things."

Keim also said fellow rookie Colby Gossett, who is playing at left guard, also has excited the Cards and "has a chance to be a player in this league."

-- Keim acknowledged that, with defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche going to injured reserve with a torn ACL, that Nkemdiche has "certainly not lived up to expectations." That means a 6-to-9-month recovery process (side note: and he will probably have a transition period on the field once he starts playing as well.)

"I would expect he will heal up fine," Keim said. "He has to come back with a chip on the shoulder. If he wants an opportunity to have a long-term career, he has got to do it on the field."

Keim said he and Nkemdiche have had discussions about whether or not the Cardinals might pick up Nkemdiche's fifth-year option for 2020 (a decision must be made by the first week of May) but Keim declined to say more than that on the subject.

-- There are issues in analyzing rookie quarterback Josh Rosen, a situation made more difficult with the troubles consistently running the ball and the supporting cast whittled down because of injuries. But Keim said he still can see what he needs to see out of Rosen.

"What it has done is put him in a tough position, but for me, what it has done is it has showed a lot about his grit, a lot about his toughness both physically and mentally," Keim said. "More than anything, and we've talked about it over and over, but it is so critical he is getting these snaps. So we don't have to go through those growing pains, in my opinion, next year. ... The one positive that comes out of this, the silver lining, is that he is getting those learning moments right now."

-- Keim said he isn't even thinking about the idea this could be Larry Fitzgerald's final season.

"I'm actually taking a step back and smelling the roses, watching him every week, taking in the moments," Keim said.

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