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Week 17 winners and losers: Developmental players edition

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The season is over after the loss to the Seahawks. Here are the winners and losers from today’s action with a focus on developmental players.

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks
Special teamer Dennis Gardeck was a winner today after blocking a punt and recovering another in the end zone for a touchdown.
Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The Arizona Cardinals ended their season on somewhat of a high note today, narrowly losing to the Seahawks in Seattle. They played their best game since the Packers win, taking a playoff team down to the wire in their own house—and they secured the #1 pick in the draft with their 3-13 record. Even though the offense once again played poorly (their longest drive of the day was just 38 yards), it was an entertaining game due to big plays from the defense and special teams.

As such, there were several winners and losers in all three facets. With apologies to veterans like Larry Fitzgerald, Budda Baker, Deone Bucannon, Rodney Gunter, Corey Peters, and Andy Lee who had big games, we’ll focus today’s winners and losers on the types of developmental players we’ve been tracking the past few weeks.

Winners

WR Chad Williams

Last week, Williams saw his first game action since October, catching 1 pass for 7 yards. This week, he took advantage of an expanded role (a team-high 11 targets), catching 5 passes for 51 yards and gaining 9 yards on a jet sweep. Three of his receptions also went for first downs. Neither the stat line or performance were flashy, but today’s game showed that Williams isn’t without talent. I’m still not sure he’ll be on the regular season roster next season (especially with a new regime coming in), but it was good to at least see something from him this season.

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LB Haason Reddick

Like Williams, Reddick had a solid-not-spectacular day, making 7 tackles (4 solo) but failing to sack the QB for the first time in three games. Reddick had a strong December overall, totaling 37 tackles and 2 sacks over 5 games. That prorates to 118 tackles and 6 sacks over a 16-game season. He probably won’t come anywhere close to those numbers next season, especially if we draft a pass rusher like Nick Bosa with the #1 pick, but Reddick’s play of late has been highly encouraging and he should have a starting job somewhere in the front seven in 2019.

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LB Dennis Gardeck

Preseason fan favorite Gardeck had a monster special teams game today. He partially blocked a Seattle punt in the second quarter that led to a Josh Rosen to Larry Fitzgerald touchdown three plays later. Then he got on the scoreboard himself by falling on another blocked punt in the back of the end zone. Gardeck will be a strong contender for Special Teams Player of the Week and should be a key contributor on teams again next season.

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PR Pharoh Cooper

Neither Christian Kirk nor Patrick Peterson had done much on punt returns this season, with both averaging less than 8 yards a return (middle of the pack in the NFL). Cooper, who averaged 12.5 yards a return as a Pro Bowler for the Rams last season, returned 5 punts for 66 yards today (13.2-yard average), including returns of 19 and 45 yards. If Cooper returns next season fully recovered from his injury, he might be able to return to Pro Bowl form, which would be a huge boon for the Redbirds.

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K Zane Gonzalez

Gonzalez, coming off his worst game in a Cardinals uniform last week, might have been the team MVP today. He nailed all three of his field goals, including kicks from 50 and 55 yards—the latter of which tied the game with less than 2:00 to go. He also made his only extra point attempt and had 3 touchbacks (on 6 kickoffs). I wouldn’t say that Gonzalez has the kicking job next season locked down, but he’s certainly the leader in the clubhouse. He should be able to stave off any offseason challengers.

Trending: Up ↑

Losers

QB Josh Rosen

Rosen played better than last week, but he was still a not-great 18/34 for 149 yards (4.4 YPA) and 1 TD. While he didn’t throw an interception for a second straight game, he did lose two fumbles. He made a few nice throws on play-action, including the TD to Fitz, but didn’t really make any “Wow!” throws. His tendency to sail passes also continued, although the Redbirds WRs made a few nice catches to bail him out. Rosen is fortunate to come out of the game with his health after taking another 6 sacks—that’s 21 in 5 December games for those keeping score at home. On the season, he completed just 55% of his passes for 2,278 yards, a 5.8 YPA, and an 11:14 TD:INT ratio. At this point, the Cardinals have no idea what they have in Rosen—he could just as easily be the next Paxton Lynch as the next Jared Goff. Surrounding him with a top-flight coaching staff and investing heavily in talented offensive lineman and pass catchers should be the organization’s main focus this offseason.

Trending: Steady ↔

RB Chase Edmonds

We haven’t really discussed Edmonds in this space previously (as he hasn’t played a ton), but we’ll check in on him briefly here at the end of the season. Not that there’s much to discuss—outside of the Packers game, he hasn’t really made an impact. His season totals are 60 carries for 208 yards (3.5 YPC) and 2 TDs, and 20 receptions for 103 yards (5.2 YPC). Ho hum. Edmonds clearly has talent, but it was not utilized at all by this coaching staff. Hopefully we can hire an offensive-minded coaching staff that can get more out of him in 2019.

Trending: Steady ↔

WR Trent Sherfield

Sherfield had been playing well recently—he had 14 receptions the previous three games—but Williams’s gain was Sherfield’s loss today. The undrafted rookie had just 2 catches (on 4 targets) for 23 yards today. He also had a brutal drop on a critical 3rd-down play on our final drive. If he had made the catch deep in Seattle territory, we could’ve potentially won the game with a touchdown or at least ran the clock down more. Instead, we had to settle for Gonzalez’s 55-yard FG and then Russell Wilson’s usual two-minute drill magic. Sherfield will probably still be in the mix for a roster spot next season, but he ended 2018 on a bit of a flat note.

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WR Jalen Tolliver

Tolliver was inactive today. He flashed a bit in the preseason—and might do so again next year—but he’ll probably never be anything more than a fifth or sixth receiver.

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LG Colby Gossett

Fortunately for Gossett, he didn’t have to face Aaron Donald again this week. Unfortunately for him (and Rosen), Gossett had another nightmare game today. He held up okay in the run game, but he was absolutely brutal in pass protection, giving up myriad hurries/hits/sacks. If you watch the replays of Seattle’s sacks, there are a few plays where he literally doesn’t block anyone. He gets in a pass-blocking stance and Seattle’s rushers just go right by him and wallop Rosen. He doesn’t belong anywhere near a starting offensive line spot next season.

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Final Thoughts

This season has been incredibly trying for Cardinals fans, but at least it’s over. Losing 13 games is about as bad as it gets, but players like Korey Cunningham, Haason Reddick, and Zane Gonzalez showed some progression down the stretch, giving the team a modicum of optimism. However, that optimism is almost completely negated by the lack of development shown by our prized rookie QB. The 3-13 record would have been much easier to stomach if we could say, “At least we have our QB of the future!” But we can’t say that for sure given Rosen’s poor play this season. That, more than anything, is why we’ll be reading about Steve Wilks’s firing tomorrow morning.

Anything to say about this final game of the season, Redbirds fans? Did you see anything out of our young players that gives you hope for next season? Or anything that just made you glad the season is over? Let’s talk winners and losers in the comments for one last time this season.