Arizona Cardinals end of the year awards: Defensive player of the year

USA TODAY Sports

We take a look at a few of the excellent defensive players for the Arizona Cardinals and decide which one was best in 2012.

The Arizona Cardinals had a terrible year. They ended with a 5-11 record for the second time in three seasons, good enough to see Ken Whisenhunt fired as head coach and Rod Graves relieved of his duties as general manager.

This team is not in shambles, though. The offense needs some tinkering with and fixing, but the defense played well beyond most expectations under the leadership of defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who now finds himself as a candidate for the head coaching job.

So which players on the team performed best for Horton's unit? Here are a few of the names. As always, leave your comments below and don't forget to vote in the poll.

Calais Campbell

Campbell had another terrific season for the Cards after many worried he might slow down after signing a new five-year deal with the team in the offseason. He played in 13 games, dealing with a quadricep injury for the other three and registered 6.5 sacks. For a defensive end in Horton's 3-4 system, that is an astounding number given what he is asked to do.

He continually gets better in the tackling department with his long arms, he is always a threat to block a kick or punt on special teams and he plays the run almost as good as he rushes the passer. He is a complete player and one that teams probably scheme for more than Darnell Dockett these days.

Daryl Washington

Washington was an absolute stud this season, which is why he got a new deal with two years left on his rookie contract. The Cardinals now have control of one of the game's best young inside linebackers through 2018.

Washington had the most sacks of any inside linebacker with nine and led the team in sacks as well. He also led the team in tackles. Once he cleans up a few mental errors that he has every once in a while, I am certain that he won't be continuously snubbed from a Pro Bowl spot.

Kerry Rhodes

Rhodes, to me, was maybe the biggest surprise for the Cardinals this season. He played 98.4% of the team's defensive snaps this season, according to Pro Football Focus. That number likely would have been higher if not for a minor injury in week six against the Bills.

Rhodes' game against the Jets was easily his brightest spot of the season. In that game, Rhodes had 6 tackles, a forced fumble and two interceptions. For the rest of the season, he was absolutely solid. He is under contract through next season with the Cards, after which he will be a free agent. There have been reports that he and the team have talked about an extension, but nothing has come to fruition yet. He is a player that the Cardinals definitely need to consider keeping around.

Patrick Peterson

Peterson is perhaps the most popular player the Cardinals have on their defense. He is very flashy and carries a ton of star power, but he does not let it get to his head. He wants to be the best cornerback to ever play the game and, to me, he is off to a good start.

Peterson led the Cardinals in interceptions with seven and had 55 total tackles, 52 of which were solo. Opposing quarterbacks are scared to throw the ball his way for fear of getting it picked off. He still needs to work on some things and does not match up well with every player (hint: Michael Crabtree), but he is well on his way to being elite, if he isn't already.

My vote has to go to D-Wash. He was solid in every aspect of the game for the Cardinals. Obviously, a case could be made for any of these four players and possibly others on the defensive side of the ball.

Who do you think is the DPOY?

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