With Patrick Peterson being voted as the rookie of the year and Larry Fitzgerald being the overwhelming recipient of offensive player of the year award for the Arizona Cardinals, we shift our attention to the defensive side of the ball. There were many players that had outstanding seasons, thriving in new defensive coordinator Ray Horton's defensive scheme.
After the jump, let's look at a few of the nominees for the defensive player of the year award. Don't forget to vote in the poll and leave your comments below.
In the final year of his rookie deal, Calais Campbell put together a masterpiece on the defensive line. He led the team in sacks with eight and he also had two forced fumbles and an interception. Not only was he a big playmaker for the defense, but also for the special teams unit. Campbell collected three blocked kicks, which often proved to be pivotal in games, leading to Cardinals victories. If there is one phrase that would really sum up how Cardinals fans feel about him it would probably be, 'pay the man!'
Dockett had a down year when you simply look at the stats. In 2011, he had a mere 3.5 sacks and only 51 tackles. But if you were to go back and watch the tape, you would notice that the reason so many other players were able to do well was because of Dockett. He was constantly occupying multiple offensive linemen, which created holes for guys like Campbell and the other pass rushers to make a play on the QB. And if there was ever the opportunity in which Dockett was able to be lined up 1-on-1 with an offensive lineman, he always made them pay dearly. Dockett's leadership skills and unsung hard work easily earn him some recognition and a nomination for this award.
The second year inside linebacker out of TCU had yet another outstanding season. Time and time again, we heard Washington being praised as the best player on the Cardinals defense by television broadcasters. He was always found somewhere near the ball, trying to make a play for his team. As for the numbers? Washington had 106 tackles, five sacks and two interceptions on the season. He is turning into a fine young player. Karlos who?
In terms of value, Sam Acho might have been the best rookie the Cardinals have drafted in quite some time. After being selected in the fourth round as a defensive end coming out of Texas, Acho was forced to sit behind the aging Joey Porter for the first six games of the 2011 season. Once Porter was forced to the sidelines with a knee injury, Acho took advantage of his opportunity and needless to say, he never looked back. In just 10 games starting, Acho managed to rack up six sacks (and another when he was not a starter) and four forced fumbles. With his combination of size and speed, it seems that the Cardinals have finally found the pass rushing outside linebacker that they have coveted for so long.
It would be an injustice not to put the rookie of the year award winner in the defensive player of the year poll. With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie being shipped off to Philly in the Kevin Kolb deal and Greg Toler tearing his ACL in the preseason, Peterson was forced into action much sooner than most had anticipated. As a rookie, Peterson was matched up against the opponent's most talented wide receiver week after week and was able to hold his own incredibly well. He had 64 tackles and 2 INTs on the season and looks to be everything the Cardinals could have asked for with the #5 overall pick.
Last but certainly not least, it would be extremely difficult to leave the perennial Pro Bowl safety, Adrian Wilson off of the list. Once A-Dub sustained a partially torn bicep muscle during training camp in Flagstaff, it was feared that he would once again be forced to miss a significant amount of time because of an injury. But what people forget is that, well, Wilson is a beast. There really is no other way to say it. Just when people thought he might be on the decline in his career, Wilson came in looking to redeem himself for a poor 2010 season ... and he did just that. He had 65 tackles, a forced fumble and an interception in 2011. His leadership skills were on full display and with his help, the Cardinals were able to dig themselves out of a 1-6 start and end up with a respectable 8-8 record. We'll be seeing you in Hawaii yet again, Mr. Wilson.
My choice for defensive player of the year goes to Daryl Washington. Calais Campbell comes in a close second for me, but I think that Washington's potential is almost limitless and that we have only seen a glimpse of what he can do so far. He has all the athletic ability in the world and the drive to be the best. Look for this guy to be on Pro Bowl ballots for many years to come.
What do you think Cardinals fans? Who should win defensive player of the year in your eyes? Make sure to vote in the poll and leave your comments below.