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Awards Or Not, Kyler Murray, Chandler Jones Impressive This Season

Cardinals QB, OLB both are in the mix at NFL Honors 

QB Kyler Murray claps after the Cardinals beat the Falcons in a home game in 2019

Kyler Murray was the Cardinals' starting quarterback from the day he arrived in Tempe following the draft.

The question wasn't whether Murray would play, but how well.

"Going into the year every rookie probably does it or thinks about it – how good (can I be)?" Murray said. "I dominated college, dominated high school, dominated Pee Wee. How good can I be in the NFL? That's a question. Obviously I'm as confident in myself as anybody. But that was probably the only question I had."

The question was answered fairly quickly. Murray's rookie year went well by anyone's standards, to the point where he has a chance to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award Saturday night at the annual NFL Honors event.

Whether he wins or not – as whether linebacker Chandler Jones would win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year after his 19-sack season – is beside the point. It's what Murray's rookie season that means for his future that resonates.

"I think Kyler Murray is destined for superstardom," former NFL offensive lineman and ESPN analyst Damien Woody said on the air this week. "The year he had … down the stretch, I was definitely tuning in to watch Kyler Murray."

Awards, however, are nice to have. His biggest competitors are expected to be Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown and Raiders running back Josh Jacobs. Brown finished the year strong, with 52 receptions for 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns for a playoff team. Jacobs rushed for 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns despite missing three of the final four games of the season.

Murray threw for 3,722 yards while completing 64.4 percent of his passes for 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also rushed for an additional 544 yards and four scores.

"Those individual accolades, everybody knows about them," Murray said. "But for me I think winning (games) is the most important thing to me. Throughout my whole career it's always been, if you win then those things will come. I don't know where I stand with those deals, but if I won it would be a cool deal for sure."

Jones, whose climb to win his award seems more daunting than what Murray faces, tends to downplay individual accomplishments himself. Jones even looks at it in practical terms.

"I don't want to be known as an elite player, and the reason for that is I want to be under the radar a little bit," Jones said. "When you get all the accolades and all these tags to your name, a lot of people start to game-plan for you more, and you get more double teams or triple teams, and I don't want that."

It was difficult not to notice Jones' season, however, after he became only the third player – and the first in 33 years – to record two four-sack games in one season. Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore (6 interceptions, 2 for touchdowns, 20 pass breakups, 53 tackles ) is considered the favorite, while Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (14½ sacks, 2 interceptions, 8 pass breakups, 8 forced fumbles) could also gain votes.

That doesn't mean Jones didn't have his own hype men inside his locker room.

"The dude is kicking ass and taking names on every single snap," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said late in the season. "He's such a force, and he's never one to toot his own horn or do a media campaign. You just respect the way he goes about his business every day."

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