AFC West awards

January, 27, 2010
1/27/10
11:00
AM ET
Let’s take a look at the best performances in the AFC West 2009 season:

MVP: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers:

Why: In his fourth season as an NFL starter, Rivers continued to get better. He was a great leader who led his team to 11 straight wins.

Offensive player of the year: San Diego tight end Antonio Gates.

Why: Gates had arguably his best season in what could be a Hall of Fame career. He bounced back from a year of injures in 2008 to be a devastating weapon for Rivers. A matchup nightmare, Gates had 79 catches for a career high 1,157 yards.

Defensive player of the year: Denver linebacker Elvis Dumervil.

Why: In his fourth NFL season, Dumervil clicked when he was moved to linebacker in a 3-4 defense after being an undersized defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. Dumervil led the NFL with 17 sacks.

Coach of the year: San Diego's Norv Turner

Why: Turner rallied his team from a slew of early injuries and a 2-3 start to end the season with 11 straight victories to win the AFC West for the third time in three years as San Diego’s coach.

Rookie of the year: Louis Vasquez, San Diego guard

Why: In a division where skill position players (Darrius Heyward-Bey and Knowshon Moreno) were taken among the first 12 picks of the draft, it was an offensive lineman taken in the third round who was the best rookie in the division. Vasquez impressed San Diego’s coaches in the May minicamp and he got better as the season progressed. He was a big part of the team’s offense.

Breakout player of the year: Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles

Why: Charles is the reason for hope in Kansas City. The second-year speedster flourished after Kansas City cut Larry Johnson in November. Charles finished 1,120 yards. He averaged an eye-popping 5.9 yards per carry. He had 259 rushing yards in the season finale at Denver.

Specialist of the year: Oakland punter Shane Lechler.

Why: In a division full of punting, kicking and return aces, Lechler is the best specialist. He averaged 51.1 yards a punt. He is a major weapon.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN San Francisco 49ers reporter

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