This offseason, the Revenge of the Birds community has nominated and awarded several Arizona Cardinals players for their achievements and play on the field in 2009. So far we've covered three awards(seen below). Last week LaRod Stephens-Howling slightly pulled away from Ben Graham, earning the Cardinals Special Teams Player of the Year award.
The Arizona Cardinals defense featured a handful of pro bowl players and playmakers in 2009, and without them the team wouldn't have surpassed nine wins this past season. The defense did face its share of ups and downs, either shutting down opponents, or getting the floor mopped by them. Nonetheless, the defense is the most complete it's been in years, and the Cardinals should look to add some youth this offseason. The nominees stand out as being dynamic, versatile, and explosive, and they are leaders on and off the field. Here are the candidates:
Adrian Wilson - 74 tackles, 1 FF, 5 INT, 2 sacks
Wilson was the Cardinals defensive leader this past season and always will be as long as he's with the team. He's the biggest strong safety in the league, and plays like the biggest defender on the field. This past year, Wilson was dynamic as he's ever been, pressuring opposing quarterbacks(2 sacks), and making plays in coverage(5 INT). His emotions and heart showed on the field when he finally joined the 20/20 club(20 sacks and 20 interceptions) as just the tenth player to ever achieve that goal. His strong play also earned him a trip to the pro bowl, and a spot on the All-Pro team. Although he's 30-years old, the Cardinals always have and always will be fortunate to have A Dubb on the defense.
Darnell Dockett - 51 tackles, 7 sacks, 1 INT
"Nine O" - or Darnell Dockett - played one of his best seasons since he's been in the league with the Cardinals. Dockett was finally named as a starter in the pro bowl, and tied the team lead with seven sacks. Dockett technically played his first year at defensive end, and did it efficiently and productively as you could ask for. Very often Dockett was the first player to stuff a running play, and showed a knack for getting to the quarterback, even in a 3-4 defense. Although he's recently requested for a new contract, Dockett has yet to allow the off-field business effect his play on the field.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - 50 tackles, 6 INT, 25 PD, 3 FF
In just his second season, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie already established himself has one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. He made the pro bowl for the first time and was a force to be reckoned with in the secondary. Just to show how dynamic he was, at 6'2 - 182-pounds, he surprisingly led the team with three forced fumbles. Rodgers-Cromartie also led the team with six interceptions and continually shutdown opposing wide receivers day in and day out. Although he showed signs that he hasn't learned everything, it's amazing that at his age and amount of experience that he's even come this far.
Calais Campbell - 48 tackles, 7 sacks, 1 FF, 2 BK
Another sophomore defender - Calais Campbell - played a vital role for the Cardinals defense in 2009. Campbell was coming off a situational position he played in '08, and there was a great deal of anticipation for how he'd fare in '09. That quickly changed to excitement, as Campbell burst on the scene and tied for the team lead with seven sacks during the season. Throughout the year Campbell proved just how dangerous he could be, even blocking two field goals. Most feel we've only scratched the service with Campbell, meaning the 6'8 defensive end still has a lot more to prove.
That's it for your list of nominees for Arizona Cardinals Defensive Player of the Year. Obviously there were some honorable mentions(Karlos Dansby, Gerald Hayes, Antrel Rolle), but without these four players, the Cardinals woudn't have had the success they did throughout the season. Who did you vote for and why?