The Cardinals had one of the top turnarounds in the NFL in 2013, finishing 10-6 due to contributions from a variety of standout players. Here are the winners of the first annual Cardinals Digital Media Awards, as voted on by a 15-member panel.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Running back Andre Ellington (8 votes)
Others receiving votes: QB Carson Palmer (5); WR
Ellington’s 2013 statistics: 118 rush, 652 yards, 3 TD; 39 receptions, 371 yards, TD.
Voter takes: “Ellington exploded on the scene and seemed to electrify a Cardinals offense that was missing a spark. Whether it was running the ball out of the backfield or catching a ball out wide, Ellington proved to be a dangerous threat with the ball in his hands.” – Jonathan Hayward, broadcast producer
“Ellington led the NFL in yards per carry with 5.5, showing dazzling playmaking ability from the backfield. He also proved his mettle at receiver, giving the Cardinals a dynamic threat wherever Bruce Arians chose to line him up. Steve Keim found a gem in the sixth round of the draft.” – Kyle Odegard, azcardinals.com writer
“Andre came out of nowhere to gain over 1,000 all-purpose yards. Since mid-season, he was consistently a focal point of opposing defenses. He edges Michael Floyd because of his versatility.” – Jim Omohundro, radio producer
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: LB Karlos Dansby (9 votes)
Dansby’s 2013 statistics: 122 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 4 INT, forced fumble, 19 passes defended, 2 TD
Voter takes: “The Filthy Bird was the heart and soul to Todd Bowles’ in-your-face defense. Looking at the production of Dansby in 2013 is frying-pan-to-the-face material but it belies the real impact he had on this team: 122 total tackles (114 solo), 6½ sacks, 4 interceptions, and 19 (that’s 19!) passes defended falls just short of the leadership he brought to that side of the ball. Karlos was accountable and dependable and kept everyone else on the defense accountable and dependable. Dansby made D-Wash and others around him better and I can’t think of an attribute I would want more from a player. Production Paragon Player = Defensive Player of the Year.” – Ron Wolfley, former player/radio analyst
“On a defense that has become one of the NFL’s best, Dansby had a fabulous season. He only got better when
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE PLAYER OF THE YEAR (who made the most impact not reflected in stats or notoriety): Special teamer
Others receiving votes: DE Calais Campbell (2); S
Bethel’s 2013 statistics: 22 special teams tackles, fumble recovery, 2 blocked kicks
Voter takes: “So disruptive was Bethel in special teams that it appeared opposing kickers missed field goals out of simple fear of Bethel's ability as a skimmer off the edge. His skill set is incredibly diverse, though, as Bethel was equally impressive as a gunner in punt coverage and at hunting down kick returners who dared bring the ball out of the end zone. Bethel's performance was duly recognized by opponents as he'll be headed to Honolulu for the Pro Bowl.” – Tim DeLaney, executive producer, broadcast
“He made the Pro Bowl so it’s not like he was completely unnoticed, but let’s face it, the stats for a special teamer are lacking. To fully appreciate what Bethel does you have to watch him on a week-to-week basis, have to see him scare kickers on field goals as he comes off the edge, have to see him shoot downfield while covering a punt and make incredible stab tackles that shut the return down before they even start.” – Urban
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR (tie): Safety Tyrann Mathieu (5 votes) and linebacker John Abraham (5 votes)
Others receiving votes: LB Karlos Dansby (3); QB Carson Palmer (1); RB Andre Ellington (1).
Mathieu’s 2013 statistics: 68 tackles, 2 INT, sack, forced fumble, 9 passes defended
Voter takes: “From day one of rookie camp, the Honey Badger was the topic most often discussed by teammates, coaches, and scouts. If the NFL comes down to making plays, then the Cards made a third-round draft pick that will pay off handsomely for the next decade. Coaches were raving during the first week of training camp that Mathieu had already mastered three different positions. By the end of September, the rookie never came off the field. As one scout told me early in the season: ‘He might run a 4.5, but he plays like runs a 4.3.’ ” – Paul Calvisi, radio sideline reporter/host
“The Honey Badger started the season as one of the best defenders the Arizona Cardinals had on their roster! Mathieu was one of the best, if not the best, tacklers Big Red had in 2013. His ability to absorb concepts and execute within a specific paradigm is nothing short of savant-like. Vegas does NOT want to see Mathieu at one of their tables. Although his stats were not astronomical, the Big Red Badger brought stability to three different positions.” – Wolfley
Abraham’s 2013 statistics: 37 tackles, 11½ sacks, 4 forced fumbles, safety
Voter takes: “Father Time John Abraham, well deserved Pro Bowl elect. Plays with passion on every down and, like Fitz on offense, leads by example. His three-sack game against the Texans was only surpassed by his three-sack-and-a -safety game vs. the Rams. Comes up big when it is needed.” – Glenn Parker, former player/broadcast analyst
“With 11½ sacks in the last 10 games of the season, four forced fumbles, Abraham gave this defense what is has been lacking – a pass-rushing threat. Took the defense up another level and gave offensive coordinators another person to worry about on an already-great D. Did all this in his first year and at age 35.” – Richard Mendez, broadcast producer
MOST VALUABLE CARDINAL: Quarterback Carson Palmer (6 votes)
Others receiving votes: LB Karlos Dansby (4); DE Calais Campbell (2); S Tyrann Mathieu (1); OL Lyle Sendlein (1); WR
Palmer’s 2013 statistics: 362-of-572 for 4,274 passing yards (63.3 percent), 24 TD, 22 INT.
Voter takes: “Palmer filled the greatest need for the Cardinals: a quarterback who could deliver the ball and make plays to give the team a chance to win games. The passing game was the clear deficiency over the last few years. Without an air attack, the running game could never succeed. Palmer struggled early in games and threw too many interceptions. Despite his mistakes, he remained calm and poised and made plays as the game went on that allowed the Cardinals to go 7-2 in the last nine games. The Cardinals scored 27 or more points in six of the last nine games. The entire team was buoyed by Palmer’s unshaken confidence no matter how difficult the situation. He was one of only two QBs in the NFL (Ben Roethlisberger) to take every QB snap for his team, despite getting banged up at Philadelphia and in Tennessee.” – Jody Jackson, reporter/host
“You need a quality quarterback to be successful in this game. He battled through adversity, learning curves, interceptions, a make-shift offensive line and was accountable and performed at a high level.” – Damien Anderson, former player/radio analyst
“Was it always pretty? No. Did it fill a massive void felt for three seasons? Yes. Palmer was as resilient as they come, shaking off early interceptions time-after-time to come through in the decisive moments of games. His toughness, physical and mental, was uncanny. Perhaps that toughness was why he is so respected by his teammates and coaches. His performance, at times, can be questioned. What's not arguable is his value to the team, as a leader and as an upgrade to the quarterbacks Big Red has seen under center since Kurt Warner retired after the 2009 playoff season.” -- DeLaney