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Winning Hands For Cards

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NFL: Arizona Cardinals at New York Giants Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

For a team that currently sits at 4-9-1 on the 2019 NFL season, the Arizona Cardinals are receiving their fair share of league-wide accolades.

After 3 of their 4 wins this season, Cardinals were hailed as award winners:

  • Following the Cardinals’ Week 6 34-33 win over the Falcons, QB Kyler Murray won the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award—-27/37, 340 yds., 3 TDs, 0 ints.
  • Following the Cardinals’ Week 7 27-21 win over the Giants, OLB Chandler Jones won the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award—-5 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery.
  • Cardinals’ K Zane Gonzalez won the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month (October).
  • Following the Cardinals’ Week 15 38-24 win over the Browns, RB Kenyan Drake won the FedEx Ground Player of the Week award—-22 carries for 137 yards (6.2 ave.), 4 TDs.

Not bad, eh?

It gets even better.

This week the 2019 Pro Bowl rosters were announced and 2 Cardinals (OLB Chandler Jones and S Budda Baker) were named NFC starters, while 3 Cardinals (QB Kyler Murray, K Zane Gonzalez and ST Dennis Gardeck) were named NFC alternates.

For Chandler Jones this is his 3rd Pro Bowl invitation (2 in the last 3 years with the Cardinals) and Budda Baker’s 2nd Pro Bowl invitation in his 3 years with the team. The invitations are even more impressive when one considers that Jones and Baker have been playing for 3 different defensive coordinators the past 3 seasons.

  • Jones is currently 2nd in the NFL in sacks with 15.
  • Baker is currently 6th in the NFL in tackles with 125.

Significances:

  • It’s ironic that the Cardinals’ two starters for the NFC are defensive players—-seeing as the Cardinals have the worst ranked defense in the NFL, giving up a league worst 413 yards per game. Despite the unit’s overall failures, DC Vance Joseph deserves credit for getting such high volume production from Chandler Jones and Budda Baker (plus LB Jordan Hicks, to be mentioned later).
  • This is the first year in his 8 year career that CB Patrick Peterson did not make the Pro Bowl due to his 6 game suspension for PED violations.
  • It’s a stunning achievement for Kyler Murray to be named an NFC Pro Bowl alternate in this his rookie season. Kliff Kingsbury predicts that Kyler “will put on a show” if he gets a chance to play in the game. Pro Bowl promoters will likely push for Kyler to play.
  • Kyler Murray is also one of the favorites to win the NFL’s Rookie of the Year award. The Raiders’ outstanding rookie RB, Josh Jacobs, has been the frontrunner (in many of the pundits’ minds) for most of the season, but he’s battling a painful shoulder injury and is likely to miss the last two games, which would cap his rookie season at 1,150 rushing yards (4.8 ypc) and 7 TDs in 13 games.
  • With K Zane Gonzalez (28/31 FGs) and LB Dennis Gardeck (8 tackles, 1 punt block, 1 TD) being named ST alternates, this adds to a growing number of Cardinals’ STs players who have made the Pro Bowl going back to Patrick Peterson as a rookie, Justin Bethel and Budda Baker. It’s worth noting that LB Zeke Turner was named as the 1st team ST player on Pro Football Weekly’s All Rookie Team in 2018. Kudos to AHC/STC Jeff Rodgers for his excellent efforts in turning the Cardinals’ ST units into a team strength from what was often in past years a team detriment.
  • While there are some key areas of his job that Steve Keim warrant scrutiny, the Cardinals’ GM and his scouts deserve a good deal of credit for pulling off the trades that landed OLB Chandler Jones (off-season, 2016), S Budda Baker (trade up with Bears in Round 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft) and RB Kenyan Drake (mid-season, 2019), for drafting QB Kyler Murray, for signing K Zane Gonzalez after he was cut from the Browns and for signing 2018 UCFA LB Dennis Gardeck, a then relatively unknown prospect from the University of Sioux Falls (South Dakota).
  • A strong case could be made with regard to (at least) Pro Bowl alternate bids for Larry Fitzgerald and Jordan Hicks. If the NFL would recognize that Larry Fitzgerald is being used as a “Y” receiver in Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, which would thereby qualify him as a flex TE, then Fitz’s production (67/711yds./3 TDs) is 3rd best in the NFC behind the Eagles’ Zach Ertz (84/888yds./6 TDs) and the 49ers’ George Kittle (73/888yds./4 TDs). As for Jordan Hicks, he ranks 4th in the NFC in tackles (ARI—-130) behind Blake Martinez (GB—-140), Bobby Wagner (SEA—-139) and Luke Keuchly (CAR—-131). That's some lofty company at the LB position.

Conclusion:

Despite the Cardinals’ record, the NFL is taking special notice in the team and is paying close attention to the production of the Cardinals’ best players.

Winning hands for Cards—-gotta love it, Birdgang!