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Two recovering Cardinals stood out to GM Steve Keim during minicamp

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It’s easy for coaches and team executives to get excited about how players look this time of year, especially when they’re coming off an injury or haven’t lived up to expectations.

But those same coaches and executives know it’s imperative to temper their expectations. Some players who look great during practice may wilt when the bright lights get turned on. And vice versa. Others look average without pads, but look like Pro Bowlers under the spotlight.

Nonetheless, three Cardinals stood out to general manager Steve Keim over the last few weeks.

The first isn’t a surprise: quarterback Carson Palmer.

“Carson has been on fire,” Keim said Thursday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “It’s been amazing to watch his rehab process. And he’s a guy that is locked in as much as I’ve seen any player locked in.”

Keim called Palmer’s anticipation, accuracy and touch coming off ACL surgery in November “phenomenal.”

“I think one of the things through the rehab process that he did was he went the extra mile to go back and refine some of his technical issues, whether it’s footwork, his throwing motion,” Keim said. “His accuracy has been pinpoint, his feel for the offense has gone to another level.”

The other two players Keim was impressed with: guard Jonathan Cooper and safety Tyrann Mathieu.

“(They) never looked right last year to me,” Keim said. “They both drug their legs, they both favored that injury. And this offseason, both of them seem to have cleared that hurdle mentally and physically.”

Keim said both players changed their bodies in an effort to recover from their injuries.

“(Mathieu) looks leaner and to me looks every bit as good as he did prior to the injury in terms of movement skills, explosiveness, making plays on the ball,” Keim said.

As for Cooper, the former No. 7 overall pick who has started just two NFL games, this offseason has shown glimpses of how he’s close to his former self. Cooper’s days at left guard are over, however. He was moved to right guard after the Cardinals signed Mike Iupati during free agency.

“His natural bend and athleticism was always his strength,” Keim said. “You finally see that now on tape again. The question remains for both of them, is they have to stay healthy.”