At the mid-season, the 2019 Arizona Cardinals under rookie head coach Kliff Kingsbury are 3-4-1. Of the eight new head coaches in the NFL this season, thus far, Kingsbury’s record is 2nd best, behind the Packers’ Matt LaFleur (7-1).
In my opinion, the first half of the season accolades are as follows:
Most Valuable Player: QB Kyler Murray (72.2)—-Murray has displayed solid leadership and, at times, breathtaking skills as a passer and runner. Was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week following the 35-34 Week 6 win over the Falcons.
Most Improved Player: RB Chase Edmonds (73.5)—-Edmonds has come into his own as a 2nd year player, keying the win in New York versus the Giants.
Most Unsung Player: TE Maxx Williams (85.6)—-Williams has helped to open up the running game and has been a reliable receiver when thrown to. His 85.6 PFF grade is the highest grade of all of the Cardinals’ offensive players.
Rookie of the Year: QB Kyler Murray (72.2)—-Murray has not only performed consistently well in all aspects of QB play, he has displayed outstanding ball security. The offense has committed a mere 4 turnovers in 8 games.
Top 2019 Free Agent Acquisition: RG J.R. Sweezy (71.0)—-Sweezy has earned the highest grade of all the Cardinals’ offensive lineman and his current 71.0 PFF grade is 16.3 points higher than his 2018 grade (54.7).
Most Valuable Player: DE/OLB Chandler Jones (80.4)—-Jones has 21 tackles and 8.5 sacks at the mid-way point of the season and was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week following Jones’ 4 sack performance in the Week 7 win over the Giants.
Most Improved Player: CB Kevin Peterson (64.6)—-Peterson finally got his chance to play and was a pleasant surprise, especially for a player who lacks NFL game experience. He is pesky in coverage and is a physical tackler, despite his lighter than average frame.
Must Unsung Player: DT Corey Peters (66.9)—Peters is a leader by example. He brings a lunch pail work ethic and a passion for all aspects of his position—-stopping the run, stacking offensive linemen to free up the linebackers and rushing the QB.
Rookie of the Year: CB Byron Murphy (54.6)—-Murphy proved that he could start and play well from day one. He is at his best when he can cover and tackle aggressively, something the defensive coaches have not made a consistent priority, scheme-wise (soft zones).
Top 2019 Free Agent Acquisition: LB Jordan Hicks (64.4)—-Hicks has become the quarterback of the defense and is always around the ball making plays. He’s had some hiccups in getting off blocks and providing consistently sticky pass coverage, but, for the most part, he’s been a reliable tackler and passionate leader.
Most Valuable Player: K Zane Gonzalez—-Gonzalez is 2nd in the NFL in scoring (kickers) at the mid-way mark, having kicked exceptionally well, making 21 of 24 FGs and 13 of 13 extra points—-for 76 points.
Most Improved Player: LB Dennis Gardeck—-Gardeck was good on STs last year, but this year he is has been superb, leading the Cardinals with an 85.0 ST PFF grade.
Most Unsung Player: WR Trent Sherfield—-Sherfield has been the team’s best and most productive gunner (74.5 PFF ST grade), showing speed and superior toughness.
Rookie of the Year: WR Andy Isabella—-Isabella has the highest ST grade (67.1) of all of the rookies, where he has showcased his speed and grit.
Top 2019 Waiver Wire Acquisition: S Charles Washington—-Washington has shined in his role as the gunner opposite Trent Sherfield and has the 3rd highest ST grade at 73.1.
Most Valuable Coach: Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury—-Kingsbury has quieted his naysayers by putting up good, solid numbers on offense—-an offense that consistently moves the ball and one that protects the ball (4 turnovers in 8 games). Scoring TDs in the red zone has been a struggle, and that is the biggest improvement area for the 2nd half of the season. As was the case at Texas Tech, Kingsbury’s offensive success has been hampered by poor defensive play, in this case a defense that gives up 29.7 points per game (3rd worst in NFL) and 407.1 yards per game (4th worst in NFL)—-and unlike in other years where the offense has struggled with 3 and outs and in committing copious turnovers, Kingsbury has kept his defense fresh my moving the ball consistently and by protecting it. Yet, fresh or not, this current defense is consistently soft and uncompetitive.
Most Valuable Assistant Coach: Assistant Head Coach, Special Teams Coordinator Jeff Rodgers—-Rodgers’ special teams continue to impress. The kicking game has been outstanding (K Zane Gonzalez, P Andy Lee), and while kick coverage and the return game have been solid, those areas are the focus for added improvement for the second half of the season.
Most Unsung Assistant Coach: Offensive Line Coach Sean Kugler—-Kulger has done a superb job of galvanizing an offensive line who many predicted would continue to fail. The offensive line grades across the board have risen dramatically. There is much stronger continuity, chemistry , enthusiasm and passion amongst the group.
Those are my choices—-what are yours? Where do we agree and disagree?
My ROTB picks:
Most Valuable Player: Editor Seth Cox—-Seth is the proverbial straw that stirs this drink—-as Emily Dickinson would say, he is “as punctual as a Star.”
Most Improved Player: Robert Ban—-Robert is emerging as a top level analyst and writer—a real coup for the board.
Must Unsung Player: Blake Murphy—-Blake is on the job 24/7/365, posting by the minute on Twitter and staying 100% on top of every iota of Cardinals’ news. Blake always brings commendable depth.
Rookie of the Year: Johnny Venerable—-the addition of Johhny Touchdown to the writing staff has been a boon. His Rapid Reactions articles for each game are must reads and, as usual from Johnny, are cleverly worded and very insightful.