Dave Boling

Dave Boling: So many Seahawks excelled that finding a team MVP gets tricky

So many players are deserving of recognition as the most valuable player of the 2014 Seahawks that selecting one almost seems like an offense to the others.

Maybe, then, it would be better to come up with a symbolic gesture and name “Next Man” as the MVP.

After all, that’s what the Seahawks have been about the past couple years. One goes down, another steps into his role.

Coach Pete Carroll said as much during his Monday press conference. “… when guys were called upon to play, they fit in and they excelled. There’s numerous examples of that and we were very fortunate. We had very good fortune with the guys stepping up and making plays, and the young guys coming through.”

Zach Miller and Brandon Mebane went down, and 15 ended up on injured-reserve. Others arose. It’s been that way since guys like Richard Sherman got their chances and became stars.

And now, this team is loaded with elite players worth considering.

The defense has half a dozen, including four selected to the Pro Bowl. That’s a good place to start.

Safety Kam Chancellor more than establishes the tone of toughness for this defense — he causes fear among strong men. He makes receivers get small and wary when they enter his territory.

In so many games — including the Super Bowl — crushing tackles by Chancellor early in the game caused opponents to reconsider the value of exposing themselves to hits in the Seattle secondary.

Beyond that, Chancellor has a quiet dignity that has made him a leader in the locker room. When he speaks, all listen.

Fellow safety Earl Thomas is the high-revving motor of the defense, operating with such a competitive ferocity he seems a danger to opponents and teammates alike.

If you play at anything less than red-lining intensity, Thomas will cause you to amp up your game.

When he was drafted, I wondered how a player 5 feet 10 and 202 pounds could hold up, particularly given his unsparing approach to tackling and coverage. But he hasn’t missed a start in five seasons.

Thomas makes plays, sideline to sideline, that save untold numbers of touchdowns, making him a rare talent in the NFL.

Cornerback Richard Sherman is no less influential, as some opponents openly admit they scheme their offense away from him.

If there’s a player on this team that makes it acceptable to be confident and brash, it’s Sherman. It’s an attitude that has served this team. He hasn’t missed a start in three seasons, either.

Like Chancellor and Thomas, Sherman signed a big contract and has only intensified his approach to the game. How did Sherman celebrate his extension? By committing to becoming a better tackler.

Many elite cornerbacks in their prime start focusing on tackling at the shoelace level when they see a running back bullying his way to the edge. But Sherman has become a better tackler in run support.

The value of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner is evident in how the Seahawks played in the 51/2 games he missed with injury. They went 3-3 in those games and 9-1 in the ones in which he played.

His value in calling the signals and getting everyone in the right spot is another point in his favor.

The obvious candidates on the offense are fewer but nonetheless attractive.

Quarterback Russell Wilson finished with his lowest passer rating in three seasons, but his passing and rushing yardage were career highs. His 849 yards rushing would make him the best ground gainer on half the teams in the NFL.

As Rams coach Jeff Fisher said last week, Wilson’s ability to run the ball and scramble out of pressure make him seem like “a 12th man on offense.”

His leadership and cool head under pressure have led to countless huge plays this season. Almost every game he comes up with a play that few or none in the league can match.

Fans would quake at the thought of having to play without him. Fortunately, they don’t have to, as he too has never missed a start in his career.

His reliability was expected.

In the case of running back Marshawn Lynch, his season started on dubious footing with a training camp holdout.

So many questions: Would he sulk and be less than fully motivated? At age 28, would he be victimized by the inevitable decline that strikes running backs who run with his physical style?

All he did was have perhaps his best all-around season, rushing for 1,306 yards and scoring a career-high 17 touchdowns.

Several times this season he changed the course of games by running over opponents. His teammates were inspired and opponents were left to consider the personal cost of trying to bring him down in the open field.

“I’ve been saying it all year long, this is the best I’ve ever seen him,” Carroll said of Lynch.

That’s good enough for me.

Lynch more than answered the questions that so many of us had about him at the start of this MVP season.

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