January 10, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas (29) intercepts a pass intended for Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (13) during the first half in the 2014 NFC Divisional playoff football game at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
(4) Michael Bennett, DL – Bennett might be the best interview in sports. He’s funny, gregarious and refreshingly honest. He swipes cops’ bikes to ride around in celebration of conference championships. What opponents don’t find so funny is his relentless pursuit of people with footballs in their hand. Bennett is such a unique defensive lineman in that he is incredibly effective playing on the edge and inside along the line of scrimmage, in all down-and-distance situations. He ranks near the top of run-stopping metrics despite just a 280-lb frame by using his quickness, instincts, and strength in tandem to either knife between O-linemen or drive through them toward his target. In addition, he is also the most successful pass rusher on the team.
(3) Richard Sherman, CB – Of all the reasons the Seahawks have been able to sustain recent success in a league set up to mesh everybody into one big dollop of mediocrity, the biggest may be that their best players are their hardest workers. Richard Sherman is constantly perfecting his craft, and does it with an immovable chip comprised of millions of perceived slights on his shoulder and a work ethic borne from growing up in South Central L.A. that fuels an internal fire that will never be extinguished. He is a press-man deity on a football field.
(2) Marshawn Lynch, RB – Everyone knows who has personified the tough playing style that has become Seattle’s football identity in the Pete Carroll era. One needs only to ask opposing players who makes this engine go. The answer is consistent- Marshawn Lynch. Between seismic playoff runs and a punishing style of artistic violence that somehow only seems to be getting more devastating and relentless with age, Beast Mode is the steel toe in the ass-kicking boots that opponents have been bludgeoned with for the last several years.
(1) Earl Thomas, FS – There’s a reason most other teams don’t primarily play a Cover-3 scheme on defense: they can’t. It requires a Free Safety from another planet to play the deep middle that can not only discourage seam routes but also provide help over the top, while still managing to fly up and make quality plays in the run game with total disregard for his body. Seattle puts a ton of on-field responsibility on Earl Thomas’ shoulders because he can somehow handle it. He is the best free safety in the league and is the best player on a really, really good team.
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