Cardinals midseason awards

TEMPE, Ariz. – It’s the chic thing to hand out midseason awards when the midway part of the NFL season comes, so why don’t we do it for the Cardinals huh?

Offensive MVP: Quarterback Carson Palmer

You can make the argument that Palmer was Arizona’s offensive MVP last season before he went down with that ACL injury in the Rams game last November. Palmer had just signed a three-year contract extension just days before the Rams game, and he was playing at an MVP level prior to the injury.

This season, Palmer’s on a mission to prove all the critics wrong who question if he’s still got it. So far, mission accomplished for Palmer, as he’s thrown 20 touchdown passes, which is second in the league only to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who has 22. Palmer’s 20 touchdown passes are a franchise record for touchdown passes in the first eight games of a season.

Last Sunday versus the Cleveland Browns, Palmer completed 23-of-38 pass attempts for 374 yards, four touchdowns, an interception and a 117.7 passer rating. It was the 14th time that Palmer has had a passer rating of 100.0 or higher. The team is 14-0 in those contests.

Palmer’s 110.2 passer rating is the third-best total among NFL quarterbacks this season.

Honorable mention: Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and running back Chris Johnson

Defensive MVP: Cornerback/safety Tyrann Mathieu

Long gone are the days that Mathieu looked like something out of a Terminator movie. When he wore the knee brace and thumb cast last season, he looked like a cyborg out on the football field, and his play reflected that. He played about as well as anyone could’ve expected considering what he had attached to his body.

He’s been free from those hindrances for quite a long time, and we’re seeing the Tyrann Mathieu we saw back in his rookie season, just a few years more mature. Mathieu’s flying all over the place, he’s making plays, he’s dangerous, and he’s loving every second of it (just watch him flex his muscles after making a big play, and that’ll show you all you need to know about Mathieu’s motivation level in a game).

Mathieu’s slid so easily into the slot cornerback position this season, and he’s played it with professionalism and a hardcore mentality, and the eyes that have been on him have noticed.

Pro Football Focus has Mathieu as their No. 1 overall cornerback, with an 18.7 rating. His ratings against the run (3.5) and on the pass rush (2.6) are tops as well, while his coverage rating (14.6) is second only to Panthers cornerback Josh Norman (16.0).

Mathieu is making play after play after play, and he’s a big part of what the Cardinals secondary – also called the #NoFlyZone, and #SavagesSZN on social media – have done this year.

Honorable mention: Cornerback Patrick Peterson, safety Rashad Johnson and defensive end Calais Campbell

Rookie of the Year: Outside linebacker Markus Golden

Golden is light years better than he was when he first showed up for rookie minicamp shortly after being drafted. Head coach Bruce Arians had complimentary things to say about Golden then, and as time moved on through OTAs and training camp. One of the big sticking points Arians stayed on Golden about was his over pursuit of the quarterback, and maintaining his gap integrity. That was the talk during training camp, but Golden, being the dedicated, hard working young man that he is, stayed on his craft, and his tireless efforts are bearing fruits for him.

Golden’s made the most of his opportunity while outside linebacker Alex Okafor’s been out with his calf injury. He’s always setting the edge and forcing the issue on opposing offensive linemen with his never say never attitude and always gassed up motor. This young man will continue to get better and better because he’s always in the ear of veteran outside linebackers Dwight Freeney and LaMarr Woodley, picking their brains on how to master the position.

With those two guiding Golden, how can he not get better?

Comeback Player of the Year: Running back Chris Johnson

This is an award that easily could’ve went to Palmer, but at the end of the day, it’s Johnson who walks away with this prize.

Johnson got shot back in March, was reserved to the fact that he might not ever play football again because of that, yet he never stopped training and he stayed vigilant in his desire to get back in the game.

Boy has he made the most of his shot with the Cardinals!

Johnson came in during the middle of training camp, knew absolutely zero about Arians’ offensive schemes and his system, but he turned out to be a quick learner, and he’s become an invaluable part of what Arizona’s doing on offense.

All Johnson’s done since he’s been with the Cardinals is rush for 676 yards and three touchdowns. The 676 rushing yards puts Johnson at No. 3 on the active rushers list behind the Falcons’ Devonta Freeman (721) and the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson (758).

Like Golden, Johnson’s made the most of his time while running back Andre Ellington was nursing a knee injury. He’s been a pleasant and much needed addition to the Cardinals roster this season.

Honorable mention: Quarterback Carson Palmer

Team MVP: Quarterback Carson Palmer

Most, if not all, NFL teams go by the way of their quarterback, and that’s the case with the Cardinals. Their defense is VERY strong, and they’re holding their own, but a big reason why they’re 6-2, and on top of the NFC West, is because of Palmer.

Palmer’s been healthy and upright all season long, which Arians, his teammates, and the entire #BirdGang are ecstatic about. In talking to him every Wednesday afternoon, Palmer’s focus is something that’s readily on display. Palmer’s locked in, he’s a perfectionist, a man that stays in the film room, and a man that flat out won’t let his team give nothing less than their best each and every week. That’s exactly what you want from your MVP.

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