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Cardinals’ Second Quarter of the Season Awards

LaRod Stephens-Howling is quickly establishing himself as a playmaker on special teams and on offense as well, which is a development that the Cardinals should recognize and put to use in a more profound way

It seems like I just wrote the first quarter awards a few days ago, but an entire month has elapsed.  Since that time, the Cardinals have had a pretty rough go of it, making these awards kind of tough to give out.  We’re counting the players’ performances from Week 5 to Week 8, which constitutes the second quarter of the 16 game schedule.


The team leader is really starting to step up his game, despite shoddy quarterback play.  He’s logged 16 receptions for 195 yards (12.2 yards/catch) with 3 touchdowns in his last three games.  In addition, Fitzgerald has recorded plays longer than 20 yards in two games.  These numbers may seem a bit un-Fitzgerald-like, but Larry needs a quarterback to consistently deliver the ball for him to rack up huge stats like he’s capable of doing.  Beyond stats, Fitzgerald has been creating opportunities for points on a weekly basis.  Not only has he been getting open every game, he’s been getting wide open for easy points, but the quarterback (either Hall or Anderson) hasn’t been able to connect.  At some point, Anderson or Hall will be able to take advantage of at least some of the scoring opportunities Fitzgerald creates.

  • Honorable Mention: RB, LaRod Stephens-Howling.  Hyphen, the Little Cardinal that Could, whatever you want to call him, when he touches the ball he makes things happen.  He’s been given limited opportunities, but he’s capitalized on them.  Since Hightower’s fumbling struggles have continued, Stephens-Howling has seen a slight uptick in his touches after Week 4.  He’s recorded 4 rushes for 41 yards, including a 30 yard touchdown.  In addition, he caught two passes for 21 yards.  As the Cardinals try to pump life into the offense, Whisenhunt should make Stephens-Howling an integral part of that effort.


I don’t think there really can be any debate about this one.  Rhodes has been making plays on a consistent basis this year, especially in the second quarter of the season.  Since Week 5, Rhodes has a fumble recovery for a touchdown (on top of another fumble recovery for six the week before), 22 tackles, and a blocked field goal.  Although he’s clearly produced, it’s too bad defensive coordinator Bill Davis hasn’t gotten Rhodes more involved in blitzing; Kerry is yet to record a sack.  In addition, Rhodes hasn’t recorded an interception since Week 1, but he’s no doubt been doing a fine job.

  • Honorable Mention: LB, Paris Lenon.  The veteran got his name mentioned in this category for the second straight time.  Lenon recorded 15 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 1 interception since he last won the award for defensive player of the first quarter.  Rhodes’ impact plays beat him out this time.


Second straight win for Stephens-Howling in this category.  He’s such an asset to this team.  Not only does he produce when given the chance on offense, he continues to dazzle as a kick returner.  This year he’s racked up 862 yards on 32 kick returns for a 27 yard average.  Although he hasn’t taken one back for a score again, he constantly sets the Cardinals up with great field position.  Every time he fields a kick, you get the sense that he could break one.  Again, Whisenhunt must find a way to get Stephens-Howling more involved in the offense.


I’m not sure that anyone saw this coming from Branch.  Since Week 5, he’s recorded 8 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 2.0 sacks.  He’s been slowed as of late due to a back injury, but he’s been getting as many snaps in as possible by playing through the discomfort.  Hopefully Branch can keep his surprise season rolling and his production up.

PLAY OF THE SECOND QUARTER: FS, Rhodes’ fumble recovery for six in Week 5.

With 11:39 left in the fourth quarter and the game still in the balance, Kerry Rhodes made Cardinals’ history when he returned a Ladell Betts fumble (forced by Darnell Dockett) 27-yards for a touchdown, staking the Cards to a 23-13 fourth quarter lead. Rhodes returned a fumble for a touchdown for the second straight week, which no other Cardinal had ever accomplished.  That win pumped aired into the Cardinals’ sails.  Without it, things would be so much worse.

  • Honorable Mention: LB, Gerald Hayes’ fumble recovery for a touchdown in Week 8.  Although it was in a losing effort, Hayes’ defensive touchdown put a stamp on the veteran’s long awaited return to action.  At the time, the play was huge and put the Cardinals right back into the game against the Bucs.  Paris Lenon forced a LeGarrette Blount fumble, which was scooped up by  Hayes.  Hayes, showing great veteran awareness, rumbled 21 yards for a touchdown.  The play brought the Cards to within three points of a comeback that never happened.


Although Dockett  gets great penetration, he’s not getting to the quarterback enough, which is evidenced by the fact that he hasn’t recorded a sack since Week 3.  Dockett has, however, recorded 9 tackles, a forced fumble, and 1 tackle for a loss since Week 5.  Although Dockett often draws a double team, he considers himself (as do the Cardinals) a superstar, so more is expected.  With a team that’s really struggling to keep pace in a weak division, Dockett has to do more to help the team; he has to bring the quarterback down.  One sack in eight games is an underachievement for Dockett.

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