Let’s wrap up the 2012 NFL season by giving our annual AFC West awards:
MVP: Denver quarterback Peyton Manning: Manning finsished second in the voting for the NFL MVP behind Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson. Manning was outstanding in his first season in Denver. He led all NFL quarterbacks in Total QBR, which rates total quarterback impact. He was brilliant as Denver finished the regular season with an 11-game winning streak.
Offensive Player of the Year: Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles. Charles was overshadowed by the great seasons from Manning and Peterson. But Charles was tremendous. After blowing out the ACL in Week 2 of the 2011 season, Charles had a career high 1,509 rushing yards in 2012. He was a bright spot on the league’s worst team.
Defensive Player of the Year: Denver linebacker Von Miller was outstanding in his second NFL season. He had a team record 18.5 sacks after getting 11.5 sacks in 2011, when he was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Most importantly, Miller made strides in his overall game in 2012. He got much better in coverage and against the run.
Coach of the Year: Denver coach John Fox. Fox has been outstanding in his two seasons in Denver. He is a flexible coach who excels at both working with what he has and allowing his assistants to coach. He is an upper-level head coach.
Comeback Player of the Year: Charles. Manning was the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. But I’m giving Charles the nod here because he was he missed nearly all of the 2011 season as a member of this division. Manning was in the AFC South with Indianapolis when he missed all of 2011 with a neck injury that required four surgeries.
Most Improved Player of the Year: San Diego linebacker Corey Liuget. San Diego should be thrilled about Liuget. The No. 18 overall pick in 2011 was outstanding in his second season. He was put in the best position to succeed by new defensive coordinator John Pagano and responded well. He is a quick, athletic impact player and a big reason why the franchise is excited about the direction of this defense.
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Oakland receiver Rod Streater. Streater was extremely productive considering he was an undrafted free agent. The Temple product had 39 catches in 2012. He is a very smooth, polished player who seems to get how to play in the NFL. I won’t be surprised if he becomes a reliable starter in 2013.
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Denver defensive end Derek Wolfe. The second-round pick became an instant starter and quickly became a big part of a much-improved defense that finished second in the NFL. Wolfe fits with Denver’s athletic approach and he plays with a lot of confidence. He is solid in all phases and looks like he has a bright future.
Executive of the Year: Denver vice president John Elway. Elway has been in Denver as the leader of the football operations for two years. He has won two division titles. The question has been answered -- Elway is much more than a legendary former quarterback. He knows this business. Every Denver person mentioned in this piece has been acquired on Elway’s watch.
Specialist of the Year: Denver return man Trindon Holliday. He was acquired off waivers in Week 6. All the tiny returner did was return two punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns. He had a punt and a kickoff return for a score in Denver’s wild playoff loss to Baltimore. Holliday is a risk-taker and he doesn’t always hold onto the ball, but the reward rate is tremendous with this speedster.