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Arizona Cardinals end of the year awards: Most surprising player

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We look at the most surprising players from the 2012 season.

USA TODAY Sports

Although the season for the Cardinals was disappointing in 2012, there were some bright spots. Some players played up to expectations and shined, such as Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson. Others fell a bit short, such as Darnell Dockett or John Skelton.

Then you have guys that stepped up either dramatically or completely out of nowhere to make the team better. That is why today, in the latest part of our end of the year awards series, we will examine a few of the most surprising players from the 2012 season.

Kerry Rhodes

Rhodes was already an adequate safety in 2011 and made people forget about Antrel Rolle and his hefty contract. But it was Rhodes' play in 2012 that now have people wanting the Cardinals organization to extend his deal. He nearly doubled his total tackles and had four interceptions compared to none the year before. He also raised the stakes in the forced fumbles category, having 2 in 2012 compared to zero in 2011.

Dan Williams

Williams was a surprise in many areas for the Cards. He finally got his weight issue under control, likely realizing that the team was growing tired of dealing with that year in and year out. He also stepped up his game, collecting far more tackles and becoming a bigger presence along the defensive line. He was the run stopper that the Cards thought they were getting when they took him in the first round of the 2009 draft. Look for him to build off this season and continue his development heading into 2013.

Nate Potter

When Levi Brown went down before the season began, no one expected a seventh round rookie project left tackle to eventually step into his place and perform well. D'Anthony Batiste was virtually a dud, which forced Potter to start his NFL career perhaps a bit prematurely. But given the circumstances, he actually played pretty well. He allowed 7 sacks in his 282 pass blocking snaps taken, according to Pro Football Focus, but that is something he can improve on. If Potter hits the weight room hard this summer, he could push Brown for the starting job next season.

Quentin Groves

Groves stepped up big time for the Cardinals after O'Brien Schofield was injured for the rest of the season during the Packers game. No one thought he would be a big time contributor for the Cards this season, especially during the preseason where he was still behind Clark Haggans on the depth chart. Turns out, he recorded the most tackles (46) and most sacks (4.5) of his career. He needed to be installed as a 3-4 outside linebacker and since that was the case here in the desert, he flourished.

William Powell

Powell was one of the lone running backs on the roster that actually seemed to gain good chunks of yardage when he carried the ball. It started to make me wonder if the offensive line was as bad at run blocking as we initially thought or if it was Beanie Wells and LaRod Stephens-Howling not performing well. In fact, Powell's yards per carry average was a full point higher than Wells'. I think Powell makes the team once again next year, despite who the head coach might be.

For me, this award goes to Groves. He played extremely well in Schofield's absence and may push for a starting job in 2013.

Who do you think was the most surprising player from the 2012 season? Vote in the poll and leave your comments below.

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