Five Good Things From the Arizona Cardinals 2016 Season

Dec 24, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians watches from the sidelines in a game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. The Cardinals won 34-31. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 24, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians watches from the sidelines in a game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. The Cardinals won 34-31. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

There Arizona Cardinals had some great moments in the 2016 season

It wasn’t all bad. The 2016 season was disappointing for the Arizona Cardinals players, and hard to watch for fans. As injuries mounted and close games went the other way, it became clear that this wasn’t going to be their year.

There were some brings spots, though. Fans and players alike looked for positives to take away from a seemingly wasted season, and they found them in various places. There were little moments of joy that could be seized on, and held onto, through a time they’d rather forget.

These moments, and players, are important. They are the things teams can build on going forward. When the 2017 comes around, they can be brought back out, and used as motivation, as reminders of where the team has been, to show them where they want to go.

The 2016 season has been one of bitter disappointment. A team that most felt would be competing for a Super Bowl will, instead, watch the playoffs from home. All that can be done is to look forward. Before that, though, here’s a look back at five things that fans should remember fondly from the 2016 season, five things to get them through a long offseason.

Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Markus Golden established himself as a dangerous pass rush threat

The Cardinals saw something in Markus Golden that other teams did not when they drafted him in the second round (58th overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft. The concerns were that he didn’t have enough athleticism to ever be a consistent pass rusher as a professional.

In his second season in the NFL, Golden has established himself as a player who has to be watched.  With a game left to play, he leads the Cardinals with 10 sacks, half a sack more than free agent acquisition Chandler Jones. He also forced three fumbles, and recovered one.

Free agency is going to be tricky for the Cardinals, with decisions needing to be made on several key players prior to next season, including some important parts of the front seven on defense. Golden’s emergence gives them some leeway in deciding who to re-sign.

It’s always nice to see young players develop and grow into being key members of the team. Golden has done just that, and could get even better. Knowing that the Cardinals will definitely have him back should provide some comfort for fans. Watching him excel has been fun.

Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Larry Fitzgerald kept moving up the all-time lists

There’s not enough that can ever be said about the greatness that is Larry Fitzgerald. The future first-ballot Hall of Famer has done it all over his 13 seasons in the NFL. He will go down as one of the greatest wide receivers the league has ever seen, and rightfully so.

As he has aged, he has had to adjust the way he plays, and the team has schemed accordingly. However, it hasn’t stopped him from putting up huge numbers. Thus far, in 2016, he has 102 receptions, 980 yards, and 5 touchdowns.

Fitzgerald has moved up the all-time list in every category. In touchdown receptions, he has moved from 11th to 8th. He’s moved up several spots, into the top ten, in receiving yards. In receptions, he ceremoniously moved all the way to 3rd all-time.

The nine-time, and soon to be ten-time, Pro Bowler has been a source of joy for Cardinals fans since he came into the league. As his career winds down, it would be nice for him to go out with a Super Bowl win. That’s not happening this year, but his continued move up the all-time lists means something to his fans.

Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Carson Palmer has solved the riddle of winning in Seattle

The Seattle Seahawks have been one of the NFL’s most consistently good teams over the past several years. They’re locked into their 5th consecutive playoff trip this season, and are coming off of back to back Super Bowl trips.

The Seahawks are also notoriously hard to beat when they’re at home, having gone 34-6 in Seattle since the 2012 season. It’s hard to go into that atmosphere, with that pressure, and be successful, especially for quarterbacks, who haven’t played well there overall.

Carson Palmer seems to be the exception. Last week, the Cardinals, led by Palmer, went into Seattle and won 34-31. More notably, it extended his record in Seattle, as quarterback of the Cardinals, to 3-0. In fact, Palmer’s only career loss in Seattle came in 2007, when he was with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals were a 7-9 team that season.

Palmer hasn’t had his best season, this year. He struggled, especially on the road. However, when he got to Seattle, he flipped the script, and led the Cardinals to a win. Palmer, and the Cardinals will have confidence next year, when the game could mean a whole lot more.

Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Tony Jefferson has become a terrific safety for the Cardinals

For much of the year, the Cardinals were one of the best defenses against the pass in the NFL. Despite a few bad games, they still wound up in the top half of the league in terms of pass rating given up, passing yards surrendered, and opponents passing touchdowns.

One of the emerging stars from the secondary was safety Tony Jefferson. Just glancing at his numbers (five passes defended, two forced fumbles, 92 tackles, no interceptions) doesn’t tell the whole story.

Though his stat sheet doesn’t jump out, his play on the field tells a different story. He has contributed in every way possible, making tackles behind the line of scrimmage, getting pressure as a blitzer, and making sure-handed tackles. He didn’t make the Pro Bowl, but there’s certainly a case to made that he should have.

Jefferson is a free agent at the end of this year, and one that will have plenty of suitors if the Cardinals let him get away. His play has been exemplary, and one of the highlights for the Cardinals in 2016. Fans hope he comes back to help this team rebound next season.

Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

David Johnson is having a massive season at running back

No player has meant more to the Cardinals than running back David Johnson. The Arizona offense is built around moving the ball through the air, but it was Johnson who stood out for the team in 2016. He did it all, and he did it all very well.

A 3rd round draft pick in 2015, Johnson wasn’t a sure thing. However, he burst onto the scene at the end of his rookie campaign, averaging 88 yards rushing and 42 yards receiving over his final five games. This earned him the starting job this year.

As a starter, he has not disappointed. In the 2016 season, he has recorded over 100 total yards in all 15 games played thus far. His 2,074 yards from scrimmage leads the NFL. He’s also tops in touchdowns, with 20. He also has another game to play, and add to those numbers. Though he probably won’t win it, his play has at least earned him a spot in the discussion for league MVP.

Fans of the Cardinals who are looking at the team’s future can begin with Johnson. He’s established himself as one of the NFL’s top running backs, and as Palmer’s career winds down, his presence will be even more important in helping transition to a new quarterback. He certainly gives them something to look forward to. His future, and hopefully the team’s along with him, is bright.

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