It has not been the season Cardinals fans anticipated, but the NFC West standings give us hope. With eight games to go, Arizona is two games behind Seattle with a Dec. 24 meeting still looming. There are several non-division leaders hovering at .500, so the Cardinals are still in the wild card playoff mix even if they don't win the West. A lot can still happen. With that in mind, let's do one final review of the first half of the season, with our two mid-year award winners.
**Most Improved: Markus Golden
Coming out of Missouri, Golden was considered a high-motor pass rusher who wouldn't be elite, and probably wouldn't reach double-digit sacks. While Golden has benefited from playing opposite Chandler Jones, he has made a bigger impact than many projected. Golden has six sacks on the season, all coming in the first five games.
Others considered: J.J. Nelson, D.J. Humphries, Tony Jefferson, Kevin Minter
Nelson has proven he can be an almost-every-down wide receiver, if he can handle the hits he absorbs to his body. Humphries still has a long way to go, especially in pass protection, but he is a far cry from where he was last season. Jefferson brings his hard hat every game, and has been maybe the most reliable player in the secondary this season. Minter continues to improve and has shown more burst and speed than we've seen from him in years past.
MVP: David Johnson
Johnson has become the focal point of the offense. He is the Cardinals' best player. Johnson is on pace for 1,400 yards rushing and 16 rushing touchdowns. His receiving numbers are equally impressive, with Johnson leading the NFL in total yards from scrimmage.
Others considered: Larry Fitzgerald, Chandler Jones, Calais Campbell
Fitzgerald is still the gold standard in the NFL for what it means to be a professional. He continues to make big plays, and is Arizona' most dependable receiver. Jones has simply been a steal for the Cardinals. He's one of the NFL's most dynamic pass rushers, and opponents have to worry about him on every play. Campbell has quietly had a very good first half of the season. His numbers may not provide the "wow factor" but they don't have to for him to have a big impact on the game.
The Cardinals still have a ton of talent, but the margin for error is thin. Arizona has thrived in years past when counted out. Let's see if the Cards can use the detractors as motivation again, and get on a roll starting Sunday.