Arizona Cardinals end of the year awards: Most improved player

USA TODAY Sports

Who was the most improved player for the Cardinals in 2012?

The past three seasons have been a bit underwhelming for Cardinals fans. The team has failed to make the playoffs since Kurt Warner left for an analyst gig after 2009, leaving Arizona without a franchise quarterback to turn to.

Still, there have been players that have stepped up to give the team some hope for the future. Whether it was a quarterback, a running back or someone on defense, the Cardinals are stockpiling some nice talent. So which of these players, between 2011 and the 2012 season, saw the biggest uptick in productivity?

Vote for the most improved Cardinals player in 2012 and leave your comments below.

Kevin Kolb

Earlier in our end of the year series, Kolb was voted as the team's offensive MVP because he managed to lead them to a 4-0 start to the season. Unfortunately, another injury caused him to miss significant time once again. Before he went out, he was on pace for his best year as a pro.

In his six games played (which was more like five if you combine the quarters he was quarterbacking), his interception rate went down, his touchdown rate was up, his completion percentage was up and his fumble rate was down. Kolb was improved all over the board compared to his 2011 season. Expect the Cardinals to bring him back next year and continue to see that heightened performance.

Kerry Rhodes

Rhodes was a candidate for our defensive player of the year award, but was edged out by Daryl Washington. There is no denying his talent from the safety position. He played more games in 2012 than he did in 2011 and all of his stats improved dramatically. He had four interceptions last season as compared to none the season before. He also had two forced fumbles.

Ray Horton always speaks of wanting his players to create turnovers to give the offense a better chance. Apparently, Rhodes took that motto to heart and worked hard at trying to prevent the big play all while taking the ball away from the opposing offense.

Andre Roberts

Even though the quarterback fiasco was arguably worse this past season than it was in 2011, Roberts still had a better year. He caught the ball for more touchdowns and more yardage across from Larry Fitzgerald as the team's second receiver. And he did all of this with one less game played.

Roberts proved me wrong in that he does look like a viable #2 option. Whether or not Michael Floyd can edge him out for that job is yet to be seen, but I am fully confident that the Cardinals have a nice receiving corps moving into the future.

Rob Housler

One of the reasons tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens was kept around while the rest of the offensive staff was fired was because of the development of Housler. Todd Heap became expendable midway through the season because of what Housler brought to the table. His blocking improved dramatically, as did his pass catching abilities.

Looking at the stats, Housler had quite a few more receptions in 2012 than he did in 2011, mainly because he was finding ways to break down opposing NFL defenses and get open for his QB. I cannot wait to see how he progresses in 2013, especially if the quarterback play improves. He could easily be the next Jimmy Graham in this league.

LaRod Stephens-Howling

LSH is still an underutilized piece for the Cardinals, but no matter how many snaps he gets, he always seems to make good use of them. He did have more rushing attempts in 2012 than he did in 2011 and in that time, he rushed for 357 yards and four touchdowns.

Although not as great of a factor in the return game anymore because of the rule changes, Stephens-Howling has found a way to make sure he remains a key contributor for the Arizona Cardinals.

Winner

For me, the winner of this award has to go to Housler. He looked almost like a bust at first because of his poor blocking ability and mediocre catching skills. He always had the physical ability to be great and now we are starting to see him come into his own.

Who do you think is the most improved player? Leave your comments below and vote in the poll.

We invite you to follow Revenge of the Birds on Twitter at @revengeofbirds and like us on Facebook. Also, follow me on Twitter at @TylerNickelASU.

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