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Awards watch: Suggs, Gronkowski in position for top honors

Bucky Brooks recently shared his view on Coach of the Year, and why he thinks Denver's John Fox should win the award. Below, he shares his picks for the rest of the Associated Press' end-of-season awards, beginning with Defensive Player of the Year.

Defensive Player of the Year: Terrell Suggs, Ravens

This not a slight to DeMarcus Ware, Jared Allen or Jason Pierre-Paul, but there is not another defender in the league playing at the level of the Ravens' star outside linebacker.

Suggs has tallied 13 sacks, with six forced fumbles, seven pass deflections and two interceptions, including a 9-yard pick-six against the Steelers in Week 9. He has done it in spectacular fashion with a trio of games with three-plus sacks and a pair of games with multiple forced fumbles.

As a one-man wrecking crew off the edge, Suggs has sparked a defense that has been dealing with the loss of its emotional leader, Ray Lewis, due to a foot injury. From his relentless pursuit of quarterbacks to his ability to set the edge against the run, Suggs has been the catalyst to the Ravens' impressive defensive performance in 2011.

Baltimore ranks third in total defense, second in rush yards allowed and fifth in pass defense. Their proficiency defending the pass remains a byproduct of their ferocious pass rush, which leads the league with 45 sacks.

While most view the Ravens as a blitz-happy bunch that relies on exotic five- and six-man pressures, a closer look at their scheme reveals a defense that typically utilizes a four-man rush from a simulated pressure package. Baltimore routinely aligns seven or eight defenders near the line of scrimmage, with most of those defenders dropping into coverage upon the snap.

Suggs is the central figure to the scheme with his ability to blow past blockers with an arsenal of power moves that showcase his speed, strength and explosiveness. With the Ravens utilizing the illusion of blitz pressure to create isolated match-ups off the edge, Suggs has been able to deliver the kind of splashy plays that have placed him ahead of his peers for the league's highest defensive honor.

Most Valuable Player: Aaron Rodgers, Packers

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The reigning Super Bowl MVP has turned in one of the most amazing seasons in NFL history. While his numbers are simply mind-boggling (123.3 passer rating, 39 touchdowns, six interceptions), it has been the efficiency and precision he has displayed from the pocket that have made him the unquestioned choice for the league's top honor. Rodgers has posted a 100-plus rating in 12 of 13 starts, while tossing at least two touchdowns in every game this season. More importantly, he has guided the Packers to 19 straight wins dating back to last season and put them in position to become the first repeat champion since the Patriots during the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

Offensive Player of the Year: Rob Gronkowski, Patriots

Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady could certainly get the nod for this award, but the remarkable play of Gronkowski has been one of the biggest surprises of 2011. The second-year pro has set a new record for receiving touchdowns by a tight end (15), while ranking as the league's seventh-leading receiver with 71 receptions for 1,088 yards. With Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates on the downside of their respective careers, Gronkowski, along with Jimmy Graham and Jermichael Finley, is establishing a new standard at the position.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Von Miller, Broncos

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As much as Tim Tebow's remarkable fourth-quarter performances have served as the catalyst to the Broncos' surprising resurgence in the AFC West, it has been the exceptional play of Miller (11.5 sacks) that has sparked the turnaround. He has quickly developed into one of the league's most dominant edge rushers, and his penchant for creating disruption has helped the new "Orange Crush" become a factor in the AFC race.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Cam Newton, Panthers

Newton is on pace to shatter most of the NFL's rookie passing records despite entering the league regarded as a risky prospect. He ranks first among rookies in completion percentage (59.7), passing yards (3,573) and 20-plus passing plays (59), and has posted three 300-plus passing games. Newton also has established a new NFL record for rushing touchdowns for quarterbacks (13), while transforming the Panthers' offense into one of the league's most explosive units.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks

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