Kyler Murray has not played well of late, and neither have the Cardinals as a whole. But in a week where the criticism of Murray has intensified, Cardinals GM Steve Keim emphasized Friday morning that the quarterback continues to be everything the franchise wants as he learns the NFL game.
"I see a guy who comes to work every day (and) competes his butt off in practice," Keim said during an appearance on the "Doug and Wolf" show on 98.7, Arizona's Sports Station. "His love of the game is obvious when you watch him out there every day bouncing around the practice field, doesn't hang his head out there. He's a guy to me that just wants to get better and better.
"He's a young man who is just scratching the surface of how good he can be. You are going to go through growing pains and there are going to be some issues with consistency, but I have full faith that Kyler Murray is going to develop into a tremendous pro."
Keim said he doesn't think Murray is feeling overwhelmed with pressure -- "I don't necessarily see that because since he's been 14 years old there have been expectations" -- but there are times when Murray can be too hard in himself. Keim noted that Murray never really had much spring football in college because of his baseball career, and only played one year as a starter. Missing that time means Murray still has things to learn both on and off the field.
"He takes it hard when he doesn't play well or we lose, you guys have seen that in the past," Keim said. "Those are the things you have to grow from -- 'Hey, I can't do it all by myself.' "
Keim added, "I think (Kyler) has a lot of self awareness. He sees where he makes mistakes and is humble enough to understand he has to grow."
-- Zane Gonzalez will continue to be the kicker, in part because Keim doesn't see any better options right now.
"People question Zane, but Zane has got a lot of talent," Keim said. "When you are in these positions, there are 31 other kickers in the National Football League and there are a handful of kickers out there (on the street) who have kicked before. When you make changes like that, you have to be 100 percent confident, in my opinion, that that (new) player is a significant upgrade to just switch guys around and move people. I think Zane will work through the tough times."
-- Keim confirmed that Larry Fitzgerald will play Sunday against the Giants. "We got him back in the building and it was a great shot of energy in the arm," Keim said, adding "it just felt really awkward and weird when Larry wasn't in the building.
-- As for not targeting DeAndre Hopkins more often or sooner, Keim noted that sometimes, the defense or the QB's read takes the ball elsewhere. But " obviously when we throw in his direction good things happen, whether it is a catch or a PI," Keim said. "We'll continue to try and focus on getting the ball to DeAndre and if it is not there, we have other weapons. ... There is no doubt the guy is a difference-maker."
-- Asked if defenses have figured out the offense overall, Keim said he really doesn't see it that way. Multiple times he brought up examples, both from the Patriots end-of-game -- the missed field goal and the inability to convert on third-and-2 on the play before that.
"There are times I feel Kyler could see the field a little bit better, times when he could make quicker decisions, but at the same time receivers could run crisper routes, backs could make different cut," Keim said. "It comes down to 11 guys, executing together. I feel like the last several weeks that's something we have not done well."
-- The Cardinals have talent but "until you come together and become a team it really doesn't matter." Keim said the Cardinals have to find a way to finish games, and too often that has cost them. "Really good teams at the end of the game make the kick, or they convert on a third-and-2, or whatever it is, and we have to do a better job just finishing."
-- As for leadership questions, "I think there are quite a few leaders in this locker room that hold everybody accountable, but at times you have to hold yourself accountable. That's where we have some young players who are going through some growing pains."